After defrauding more than 60 people in a plot Sheriff Chris Nocco described as a “boat repair shop Ponzi scheme,” a Pasco County man is facing multiple defraud and theft charges.
Scott Sands, 43, owns and operates Liberty Entrepreneurs Inc., which ran a boat repair company and two storage lots in Hudson. From 2019 to 2021, Sands would take parts from one customer’s boat and use it on another or he would sell the parts, according to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.
He would also buy car parts and use them on boats, which employees at his shop said was dangerous, according to arrest affidavits.
“Not only is he fraudulently putting the wrong parts into a boat engine that should be in a car, but now he could be endangering the lives of those individuals and their families being on the water, going full speed thinking that their boat is safe,” Nocco said in a press conference Monday afternoon.
Sands had previously been charged with operating a chop shop in Pinellas County in 2010, according to court records. Other charges from his past include stolen property and scheming to defraud.
At his Hudson boat shop along Marina Drive, detectives said Sands would tell customers it would take three weeks to repair their boat. As months dragged on without answers, customers would call to ask about the status of their vehicle. Sands would then strip the boat of its valuable parts, sell them or use them for another boat, and tell customers the boat had been completed months ago but was never picked up, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
He would then charge customers thousands of dollars for storage fees, deputies said.
The story was the same for nearly all 60 victims the Sheriff’s Office contacted. They connected through a Facebook group for others who had been defrauded by Sands, Nocco said Monday.
Former employees also spoke with the Sheriff’s Office, and described sand-blasting used boat parts to pass them off as new.
Deputies executed a search warrant on Sands’s four properties Thursday. They found vessels that had their identification numbers altered and a stolen motorcycle. Deputies seized 75 boats in his possession and 23 other vehicles, along with the stolen and altered property.
Sands faces charges of scheme to defraud, failure to secure worker’s compensation insurance coverage, grand theft, dealing in stolen property, owning/operating/conducting a chop shop, possession of a vessel with altered hull and felon in possession of a firearm.
He was released from the Pasco County Jail on a $72,000 bond.
The Sheriff’s Office believes that other victims may still be out there. They can contact the Sheriff’s Office at 1-800-706-2488 and refer to case number 20022049.