Better Call Behnken: Gate closed at Palm Harbor consignment shop, customers still out titles, thousands

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) – The gate is closed and the sign at Gulf Coast Boat Sales, in Palm Harbor, offers few answers for angry customers.

The shop is under fire after 12 customers called 8 On Your Side in desperation. They either sold boats through consignment and didn’t get paid, or they paid for boats they don’t legally own, because they don’t have titles. Some purchased brand new boats, but cannot receive them, because the manufacturer has not been paid.

That’s what happened to Rick Weaver after he forked over $24,000 for a boat. It now sits at his house, because he doesn’t have the title.

“I like to do everything legally, and I don’t really want to get pulled over and then I have to explain my way out of it,” Weaver said.

At first, there was a glimmer of hope. Manager and salesman James Laden promised to take care of things. But, now there a lot more complaints.

Customers are owed $40,000, $20,000 and various other amounts. Customers paid for boats they didn’t get, or received the boat and can’t legally drive it.

The boat shop has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau, and there are similar complaints, many of which have been settled. Laden said the shop is working to fix the poor BBB rating, but customers tell 8 On Your Side that Laden is no longer with the company.

The boat shop owner hired Attorney Christian Myer to represent the business. He said the shop’s issue started as a “small problem” but became a “massive problem.”

He said he hopes to have a plan in place by late next week to help the company pay back customers.

Meanwhile, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is reviewing several complaints.

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