Archive for » September 15th, 2017«

Toms River Marina Manager Indicted In Boat Fraud Scheme

PHILADELPHIA — A Toms River man who pleaded guilty in 2010 to a $7.4 million check-kiting scheme is in trouble with federal authorities again, this time accused of selling boats worth $2 million that didn’t belong to him to spend the money on himself.

Denis Kelliher, 47, was indicted in federal court in Philadelphia Thursday on charges of wire fraud in the case, Acting United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen said.

According to the indictment, Kelliher was the manager of Trenton Marine’s Toms River marina from 2013 to 2016 and acted as a broker for the sale of boats.

During that time, authorities said, he sold at least 13 boats without the knowledge of the owners and converted the proceeds from the sales to his personal use, including to pay off debts he owed to his business associates.

Federal authorities allege Kelliher robbed the boat owners of their property valued at more than $2 million.

A phone call to the company’s Trenton headquarters requesting comment was not immediately returned.

It appears the alleged boat scheme happened not long after Kelliher completed a 33-month sentence in connection with the $7.4 million check-kiting scheme related to the Bordentown car dealership he owned until 2010.

In that scheme, Kelliher admitted he wrote at least 125 checks, against different bank accounts he controlled, knowing the amounts in the accounts would not cover them, then accessing the funds before the checks had cleared. The face value of the checks was in excess of $117 million, federal authorities said, and caused $7.4 million in overdraft fees at various banks.

Kelliher was sentenced in September 2010. An NJ.com report on the sentencing quoted Kelliher as telling Chief Judge Garrett E. Brown Jr., “I never wanted anyone to be harmed by my actions. I completely realize the mistakes I’ve made and take full responsibility for them. I want nothing more than to repay my debt and correct the wrongs I have committed.”

If convicted, Kelliher faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment, three years’ supervised release, $250,000 fine, and $100 special assessment. Additionally, Kelliher will be subject to restitution and/or forfeiture of money and substitute assets totaling $2,163,000, Lappen’s office said.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Toms River (NJ) Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anita Eve.

A July 2014 Google Maps photo shows Trenton Marine Center on Kettle Creek Road as it appeared then.

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Hot Springs sees strong summer in tourism

Local businesses and Visit Hot Springs both report 2017’s summer season was a strong one, based on sales and tax collections.

Hospitality tax collections and individual business numbers were on par with, or exceeded, last year’s season totals, they said. Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, credited the city’s overall tourism product for the strong summer showing.

“With everything that’s going on, with the Oaklawn product to Garvan Gardens and Magic Springs, the good weather, I think it was a great summer,” Arrison said.

Hospitality tax collections for May and June were up 1.93 percent and 2.12 percent, respectively, compared to 2016. Collections for July were down 1.5 percent compared to last year, but Arrison said that a “major hotel” property in the city didn’t remit its collections in time for that month’s total.

Arrison said once the taxes are fully collected, the percentages will more accurately reflect the city’s tourism performance for July.

“We actually had a good month, though the percentages do not reflect that,” Arrison said.

Businesses within the city that depend on visitors for a successful summer attested to a strong season, as well. Mike Branch, general manager of Buckstaff Bath House in Hot Springs National Park, said his numbers were “just about even” with last year’s summer season, which experienced a 9-percent increase over 2015.

Branch said the weather could have had an impact on his business, noting rain as a contributing factor.

“Rain can be a benefit to us, making (people) come inside; other times a year, it doesn’t really affect them,” he said. “Heat generally brings more people out.”

Across Central Avenue from the Buckstaff, in the downtown historic district, The Ohio Club, known for its burgers and 1920s décor, experienced a 15-percent increase in business over summer last year, owner Mike Pettey said, noting it is an ongoing trend.

“I’ve seen that kind of growth every single year,” he said. “I keep saying, ‘I don’t think we can do any more than we did,’ but every year, we do.”

Pettey largely attributed his success to the amount of foot traffic in downtown Hot Springs.

Local businesses outside of downtown thrived over the summer, as well. Lisa Sexton, general manager of Greg Orr Marine, called the summer months “great” for her business, noting the marina passed 200 boat sales for the year in August.

Sexton said 189 boats is the most the marine had ever sold in years prior.

“With the economy, people are comfortable getting out and buying recreational items,” she said. “It’s been a fantastic year.”

The summer began with the sixth annual Hot Springs Fishing Challenge, which yielded its first catch of “Big Al” since the challenge began in 2012. It also boasted the largest total giveaway this year, at $21,500.

Arrison said this year’s fishing challenge was a “huge publicity success for Hot Springs fishing” in light of the capture of “Big Al.”

As the calendar year moves into the fall, Arrison said he is confident events planned in September and October will continue to stimulate the economy, including Spa-Con and the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.

The 12th annual Hot Springs Rally, which drew motorcyclists to the Hot Springs Convention Center last weekend, had a total attendance of just over 12,300, rally Director Fred Anderson said.

The total number of motorcycles in Hot Springs exceeded 15,000 over the weekend, he said.

The rally featured competitions for motorcyclists, vendors and live music performances from artists Kellie Pickler and Three Dog Night.

“The fall used to be, Labor Day, the fireworks went off, that was the end of our business until racing season, and that’s not true anymore,” Arrison said. “The fall is getting stronger every year, and will continue to get stronger because we have a good product and we have a lot of special events that draw people — not just from the touch states, but all over the country.”

Pettey attributed the city’s success to small businesses marketing themselves and the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission promoting the city as a whole, noting the city and its residents were “working in tandem.”

“The fruits of our labor are paying off,” he said.

Local on 09/15/2017


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Port staff, board contemplate buying Jensen Boat Yard

A roughly 100-year-old San Juan Island business may be sold to the Port of Friday Harbor.

“I know what needs to be done, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” said Jeri Ahrenius, after the Wednesday, Sept. 13 port meeting. “I want to make sure it serves boaters in the community.”

Jensen Boat Yard and Marina has been in Jeri’s family for the last century, according to her husband Mike, but the couple said that a small, private marina cannot keep up with the cost of state environmental regulations, as well as needed improvements. The port, said Jeri, has resources to cover these necessities.

Mike resigned as port commissioner at the beginning of the Sept. 13 meeting, before the remaining two commissioners evaluated buying the property. This aligns with Washington state law, according to Port Executive Director Todd Nicholson.

The available marina is about a five-minute drive southeast of the port’s current marina, which is located in the Town of Friday Harbor, near the ferry terminal. If port staff buys Jensen Boat Yard and Marina, they would maintain both entities.

Nicholson said some positives of the purchase included increasing marine maintenance operations for port tenants. He estimated that hundreds of boaters go off-island, annually, for repairs, because there is not enough space and craftsmen at island shipyards. If the port buys Jensen Boat Yard and Marina, said Nicholson, both would be increased.

“It is the perfect fit for San Juan Island and the Port of Friday Harbor,” he said.

A communal space could also be offered for island craftsmen to work on boats. This would be cheaper for craftsmen who work intermittently, rather than leasing space that is not used year round, added Nicholson.

The marina could also include places to store and repair seaplanes and it has rare, covered moorage slips, he continued.

Seaplanes are designed to land and take off on water.

Commission Chairwoman Barbara Marrett said some people use the port’s lack of seaplane storage as an incentive to buy private docks. The board also discussed possibly adding another seaplane dock to this marina, in addition to the one located at the Port of Friday Harbor.

Nicholson said a report on the purchase showed wages are the biggest expenditure, though he said they are similar to the port’s salaries and benefits.

The highest revenue is sales, he said, which would be easy to maintain in the transfer. Rather than purchasing land and building infrastructure, revenue for this business would begin at the point of sale. Sales include labor and parts for marine mechanical repair, he added.

Nicholson explained that, as a government entity, the port would not have to pay all taxes and would have access to grants to cover costs.

“It has been a historically successful business for 100 years,” added Nicholson.

Mike added that, while others are interested in the site, he and his wife would rather sell it to the port to serve the most islanders’ possible.

Marrett noted that one of the best parts of the shipyard is its affordability.

Commissioner Greg Hertel predicted that a private buyer would prevent the average islander from using the facilities.

“They would turn it into a private marina, with high-end condos in front of it and we’d never see it again,” he said.

Port staff will review the option in more detail and present an in-depth report at an October board meeting, which has yet to be set.

The board explained that they have 90 days to appoint a replacement for Mike. The appointee will serve the remainder of Mike’s term, until the end of 2019. Candidate filings are closed for the November election, so the position cannot be voted on until next year’s election.

Applicants must live in San Juan Island’s district 1 and be a registered voter. For questions about applying, contact the port staff at 378-2688. Mail letters of interest to the port at PO Box 889, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.


2017 General Election: Port of Friday Harbor

Barbara Marrett’s seat for district commissioner 2 is open in the Nov. 7 general election. Marett is running for the six-year term against Keith Carver, who, according to the San Juan County Voter’s Pamphlet, is a retired mechanical engineering and lifelong boater, with no previous political experience.

Marrett, according to the voter’s guide, is a local business owner, manager of the San Juans Visitors Bureau and has been a port commissioner since 2005.


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