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Exclusive: O.C. yacht dealer disappears

July 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Eyewitness News has exclusive details about a search for an Orange County yacht dealer who disappeared last weekend. He allegedly owes customers, investors and employees hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ed Fitzgerald owned Dana Island Yachts for over 20 years in Dana Point. The company bought and sold used boats, as well as offered chartered adventures. But Fitzgerald is now wanted by the O.C .Sheriff's Department as a person of interest in a possible fraud investigation

Captain Fitzgerald disappeared over the weekend leaving dozens of angry customers.

Brad Rambo sold his boat through Fitzgerald's company. He lost about $85,000.

"They paid me with an $85,500 check which bounced last Tuesday. And Ed said on this Monday, that he would pay with a cashier's check along with interest ... which on as of day, I found out that he had left the previous Friday," said Rambo.

Fitzgerald's office doors were locked Thursday. Orange County Sheriff's detectives are interviewing several of Fitzgerald's employees, who are now left without work and some without their earned commissions. All of the employees say they were caught by surprise when Fitzgerald could not be reached over the weekend.

"This was all very unexpected. I feel terrible. I feel terrible for everybody involved in this, I feel very bad," said Bob Jarvis, a sales representative.

Authorities allege hundreds of thousands of dollars may be missing.

"There're so many victims ... probably 20 ... probably the list is going to grow. So many different allegations of loans, and checks written, money is missing from escrow accounts," said Jim Amormino, Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Some victims allege they lost money after investing with Fitzgerald, who promised them a high return. Others allegedly claim they paid years upfront for a boat slip with the thinking they were getting a deal.

Bob Jarvis worked for Fitzgerald for 12 years. Now unemployed, Jarvis is left with answering customer questions.

"I'm just trying to contact my customers and be there for them," said Jarvis.

Others can't imagine the 56-year-old, trusted by so many in the boating community for decades, could do something like this. Those close to him can't imagine where he may be.

"He has two dogs, they're like his family. He just left them there. I'm shocked ... I'm speechless," said Melissa Teer, Fitzgerald's friend. If you have seen Ed Fitzgerald, have any information or may have been a victim, you are asked to call the Orange County Sheriff's department at (866) TIP-OCSD, or (866) 647-6273.

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