March 29, 2007
Tavernier man charged with grand theft and fraud
Monroe County - A Tavernier man is accused of failing to install a dock and three boat lifts after accepting monetary deposits for the work.
43 year old Donald Wade Bruce told people his businesses were called Keys Cat 5, and Hurricane Boat Lifts. Sheriff's Detectives have investigated four cases where Bruce signed contracts with people, took their money, then failed to do the work he was supposed to do.
A Grassy Key man paid Bruce $10,000 in May of 2006 as a deposit for which Bruce was supposed to install a dock on his property. He called Bruce several times to find out when the work would begin. Bruce put him off a number of times, and finally told him in November of 2006 that the work would start the following week. When no work began, the victim called Nationwide Distributing, the manufacturer of a product called "Easy Dock". They said Bruce no longer distributed their product. At that point, the victim called the Sheriff's Office.
A man from Boca Raton who was building a home in Marathon wanted a boat lift at his new home. He spoke to a neighbor who was also having one installed, and was referred to Bruce. Bruce agreed to install the boat lift and accepted a deposit of $4,292.71 in August of 2006. Suddenly, the neighbor began having trouble getting Bruce to finish his boat lift, and the victim was not able to reach Bruce at all. in October of 2006, he finally called the Sheriff's Office to report the fraud.
A Key Largo man called a company called IMM Boat lifts in Fort Myers because he wanted a boat lift installed at his home. They said they did not sell boat lifts directly, but a few days later Bruce called him about the boat lift. They met in September and the victim paid him a deposit of $4,750.00. The work never started, and the victim could not reach Bruce. In January of this year, he called the Sheriff's Office to report the fraud.
A Key Largo man called Hurricane Boat Lifts in March of 2006 to have a boat lift installed at his residence. Bruce gave him a price for the job and the man said he'd think about it. A couple of weeks later, Bruce returned to tell the victim he had a boat lift from a previous customer which he would sell to him at a lower price. He told the victim he needed the total amount of $7,698.65 up front for it and the victim agreed, writing him a check. Bruce said he'd install it within two weeks. He never performed the work. The victim reported the crime in January of 2007.
Detectives David Carey, Kenneth Baker and Rick Martin were investigators on these cases. They called building departments in each area and discovered that Bruce never applied for permits on any of the jobs and, in fact, does not have a business license issued in his name. Bruce was arrested on March 28th and charged with four counts of grand theft and two counts of fraud for falsely identifying himself as a contractor. He was also charged with outstanding warrants for two counts of worthless checks, violation of probation and failure to appear in court. More charges are pending. He is currently in the Monroe County Detention Center.