White-Collar Crime

Feds Seize Madoff's Yacht, as Owners of Less Expensive Watercraft Abandon Ship

As federal agents today seized a 55-foot yacht owned by convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, other owners of less expensive watercraft reportedly are abandoning ship on boats they can no longer afford to maintain.

The yacht, described as a beautifully maintained custom-built antique by the owner of the South Florida marina at which it is docked, can probably be sold for around $800,000 to help Madoff fraud victims recoup some of their losses, reports CNN.

However, in another sign of the global financial crisis Madoff helped create with his record-breaking $65 billion Ponzi scam, a growing number of owners of ordinary watercraft are dumping their boats after removing identifying information as best they can, according to the New York Times.

Upkeep on boats is expensive and, as with much of the nation’s real estate, the value of these once-desired vessels has plummeted and many are now effectively unsalable. Worried about the growing flotilla of abandoned, derelict watercraft and the navigation and environmental hazards they pose, affected coastal states are pursuing delinquent owners more aggressively and even drafting new laws to provide criminal penalties to use against them, the newspaper writes.

Some owners are taking more desperate measures, putting them higher on the priority list for scrutiny. Insurance investigator Todd Schwede of San Diego says his caseload has tripled over the past year or so.

Overwhelmed owners on his caseload, he tells the Times, have pursued a thought process along these lines: “I am overinsured on this boat. If I make it go away so no one will find it, the insurance company will give me enough to cover the debt, and I’ll make something on the deal as well.”

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