Grand Manan resident discovers he’s the victim of scam, loses fishing boat

Grand Manan – Imagine you’re a young, single father trying to make a better life for your family. Now imagine buying a used fishing boat you’re going to use to get dulse to make an income to help support your family. Next, eight months later you discover the boat you bought in good faith is actually stolen, and it is seized from you.

That is exactly what happened to Josiah Crossman of Grand Manan. Not only has he had the boat taken away from him, all of his tools, and everything he put into the boat over the past eight months have also been seized, since they were on the boat – all due to the ongoing investigation into the theft.

Crossman said he began looking for a boat last December, and found what he was looking for in January. The boat was in Digby, NS, and he decided despite being in rough shape, he would buy it, and fix it up himself to save money. He said the boat had a large bow, and it was wide enough for his needs. He knew how to do the work that it needed, and decided it was a great deal. So, in January, he traveled to Digby to pick up the boat and bring it home, stopping along the way to pick up a motor he found a good deal on.

“This was in January,” said Crossman. “I was three or four hours getting the tires so they’d hold air, strapping the boat onto the trailer. I had to run wires on the trailer so when it was on my truck people behind me could see the lights.

“I drove maybe five or six minutes down the road to the parking lot of the hotel where I had to stay for two days because the ferry didn’t run. Two days later, got the notification from Bay Ferries they were going that day. I got on the ferry with the boat.”

Crossman said there were records of him bringing his truck and boat onto the ferry, and then the boat sat in his front yard for eight months while he did the work it needed. That’s when he was informed the boat was stolen.

“The boat sat in my yard, very visible, identification numbers on the bow on either side. The boat sat in my front yard for almost eight months.” Crossman said he had to take his girlfriend to the police station to get a criminal record check for a job she was starting when the trouble started.

An RCMP officer came up to him while he was in his truck and asked if he was indeed Josiah Crossman, to which he said yes. Then he was asked if he had his child in the truck, and was asked to step out of the vehicle. He was then informed he was in possession of a stolen boat, and while he was speaking with the officer, other officers, with the help of DFO agents, seized the boat.

“I never got to use the boat,” said Crossman. “I did get it in the water. Three days after I get it in the water, I have a policeman come up to me and said, ‘you’re Josiah Crossman’. I said ‘yes I am’. He said, ‘you’re in possession of a stolen boat’.

“I was like you’ve got to be kidding me. I thought they were just joking with me. I started digging through the centre console, and I had the receipt. I said I’ve got the receipt for the boat, and I have text messages from the fellow that shows this was a bare hull.”

Between the cost of the fishing boat and his tools, Crossman figures he has spent approximately $20,000 – or a quarter of his annual salary. He said it is the first boat he ever purchased that had a bill of sale, complete with the date, the purchase price, and the phone number and signature of the seller.

“Eight months later, after I get the electronics, a motor, hydraulic steering, batteries, I had 300 watts worth of solar power. I had a camp that I sold, and took my solar system off that. I fiber-glassed the stern, fixed a bunch of cracks, sanded it down to the original gel coat, and then gel recoated it my colour. All of my boats have always been orange. That’s my colour.”

Crossman said at this point, he was in shock, and couldn’t believe this was happening after having worked on the boat for the past eight months. He said the officers refused to listen to him that most things on the boat were his own property, even though he had photos of the boat from when he purchased it, showing that it was little more than a bare hull.

He has been trying for the past two weeks to retrieve his property, but said he was being given the runaround, and felt as though he was the one being treated like a criminal.

“What I don’t understand about all of this is that it was eight months. They told me the boat was reported stolen in January. The boat got taken off the island. I tried to contact the RCMP the day they took it. They were being really hush hush, wouldn’t tell us anything.

“I said this isn’t right. I’m not a criminal, and I’m being treated like one. I bought this boat in good faith, with a receipt, and they’re still trying to treat me like I’m the criminal. I pour my heart and soul into it, and then all of the sudden they tell me it’s stolen.”

Crossman said he has retained an attorney in an attempt to retrieve his property. He said RCMP in Digby have requested receipts for everything he had on the boat. He is able to produce some of the receipts, but some of the items are personal property he has owned for several years, and no longer has the receipts. But, the photo of the empty hull should be proof enough these items weren’t on the boat when he purchased it.

“I said I have pictures the guy sent me of this boat,” said Crossman. “There was nothing in it. It was a bare hull. It had a toilet in the bow in the cuddy, it had a bread box on the wall which was used as a storage container, it had power train controls, the RPM gauge, the tilt meter, and running light wires hooked up to a switch box. That was it.”

The investigation regarding the stolen fishing boat is being handled by the Digby RCMP. Const. James Low said the investigation is ongoing, but h couldn’t add much more than that, except to say that they are following up on all possible leads.

Luckily, things are starting to look up a bit for Crossman. He said he has been in contact with the Digby RCMP, as well as the Grand Manan RCMP, working with them as best as he can to try and get his property back, even if he isn’t able to get the boat.

“They said that they do now believe I’m a victim of fraud, which is the case. I had to give them an inventory, the best that I could do, of everything I had on the boat that was mine. I gave that to Const. Bryant (Grand Manan RCMP), along with pictures of a few receipts that I had, and other odds and ends proving that I owned what was on the boat. They contacted the person that I bought the motor from, and now I’m waiting to hear back from the Digby RCMP.”

He has been told the RCMP has to work with the rightful owner of the boat to get his property back, and the owner is being difficult about this. Crossman said technically, the boat owner is now in possession of stolen property, because he has Crossman’s tools and equipment.

“That needs to be explained to him that like him, I’m the victim here too,” said Crossman. “I wasn’t the one who stole the boat. I bought it under the pretense that it was all legitimate.”

Crossman has been informed that there is a suspect in question, a person who has pulled the same scam with up to three other boats in the past several months. Crossman told officers that the rightful owner of the boat should be trying to work with him to catch whoever stole the boat in the first place.

“I don’t think he understands that I’m not the guy who stole the boat, and he’s thinking that it’s that guy’s property that’s on the boat, in which case I understand,” said Crossman. “To my knowledge, the RCMP are trying to inform the rightful owner that I’m not the one who stole it. I’m just another victim. But, he’s in possession of my tools, motor and gear. At the end of the day, he got his boat back in 10 times better shape than it was when it was stolen. The least he can do is work with me to have my property back, to recoup my financial loss.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca