CHICAGO (CBS) — A consumer fraud investigation into a south suburban marina was launched after the CBS 2 Investigators first reported about a woman who bought a boat from that marina but never got it.
CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker tried to track down the mysterious marina owner and discovered even more legal trouble he faces.
Last December, Crystal Taylor paid thousands of dollars for a boat she bought from Cal Side Marina.
“I immediately fell in love with it,” she said.
She had to promise to pay for it by the start of boating season, and she did. The boat was supposed to be docked at the marina, but instead it sat on dry land all summer.
“I satisfied my end of the agreement. So I’m just waiting for Cal Side to make good on theirs,” she said.
Taylor made two payments, and by early May the balance due showed $0. She was told she could come and get her boat in June, and paid Cal Side another $400 to get it up and running.
Then she heard from Steve Brown, the marina owner, who told her she still owed money. She said she could never get an answer on how much she owed, or why.
CBS 2 asked Cal Side manager Tommy Long, who sold her the boat, why the marina hadn’t given Taylor her boat.
“I don’t know. You have to talk to the owner,” he said.
Calls to owner Steve Brown went unanswered. Meantime, Taylor spent the summer without her boat. It spent all summer parked on dry land at Cal Side, despite a letter from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office demanding the marina give Taylor the boat or refund her money.
“It was a birthday present to myself this year. I want what I paid for,” she said. “I don’t have my boat. I don’t have my money.”
Burnham police officers escorted her to the marina to remove her personal property from the boat.
At first, Long himself said, “I got no problem with that.”
Just a minute later, his wife, Mary, wasn’t happy, standing in front of Taylor’s van as she drove into the Marina, and telling her to wait.
“They’re unbelievable. These people are unbelievable,” Taylor said.
Eventually Taylor got back her TVs, batteries, LED lights, and other items worth thousands of dollars. But once again received a mysterious bill.
“They’re saying it’s a storage fee,” Taylor said.
For a boat she never owned or enjoyed.
“They’re just trying to extort more money out of me. That’s all,” Taylor said.
CBS 2 never got a call back from owner Steve Brown, so the CBS 2 Investigators went looking for him.
The address listed on his business license was nothing more than a post office box.
Brown wasn’t at another property he recently bought for $300,000, and leases to an auto shop.
Brown faces building code violations at another property he owns in Chicago, for broken windows and crumbling concrete.
Finally, at the address where the State’s Attorney’s office sent the letter demanding Brown do right by Taylor, the man who answered the door promised Brown would “do the right thing.”
“I will communicate with him, and I will tell him that whatever is the appropriate thing to do, for him to do,” he said.
Brown didn’t, but Taylor’s bank did. After investigating her fraud claim, the bank returned her money.
Taylor said she wants more transparency in the boat buying process. Several states have adopted a uniform titling act, which requires titles be branded with prior damage history and liens. Illinois has not.