Broward News

Former Employee Alleges Mega Yacht Mart Owner Cheats Consignors

On September 28, a man in a straw hat stood on the side of Andrews Avenue and SW 20th Street in Fort Lauderdale burning a cigar and holding a sign that said: "Mega Yacht Mart: Ripoff." The next day, the store responded with its own sign, proclaiming that it'd be closed for inventory until October 16.

Mark Mercer, a 56-year-old South Florida native with an ax to grind, says it's simple cause and effect. He's a former employee who decided to protest after watching "customers streaming in and out, demanding their money" during his ten days on the sales floor. And although current employees think he's wacky, some former customers say they turned thousands of dollars' worth of equipment over to Mega Yacht Mart and received meager checks in return.

Ron Jakubas, for instance, says he consigned 15 boat trailers to Mega Yacht Mart owner Stewart Donaldson, which he estimates were worth $12,000 to $15,000. That was eight months ago, and to date, he says he's received only a $76 check. He says he's consulting a lawyer.

Raul Hensley, who consigned more than $4,000 worth of diving equipment with Donaldson in February, says he's received only a little more than $100 for his items, even though they've been sold. But he says he handed over the equipment willingly, so it's not stealing. He says that Donaldson is never at the shop and refuses to meet about the money. "He's a bad man," Hensley says. "He runs a cheesy business. I'm sure if he does this for another eight months, he could make a ton of money and get out of the business."

Although there haven't been any police reports or lawsuits filed in relation to the consignment woes, allegations against Donaldson span pages on online forums like TheHullTruth, which is dedicated to boating. Court records show that Donaldson has a history of not paying his debts. In 2006, Broward County Court decided Donaldson broke a $30,781 contract with a man named Michael Telcik and was ordered to pay him back.

Jamie Telcik, Michael's daughter, explains that Donaldson purchased her father's company, Dockfinders, but stopped making payments. "My dad is living on a sailboat, and I have to worry about him every day, because he doesn't have the money he was supposed to use to retire," she says. "My dad has been trying to get the money back from [Donaldson] for years."

More recently, in May 2013, one of Donaldson's houses was sold at a foreclosure auction. Another is scheduled to be sold October 7, according to the Broward Daily Business Review.

On a recent Wednesday, Mega Yacht Mart was locked, but customers could come in if they knocked loud and hard. Although Donaldson, the owner, wasn't there, an employee reached him by phone in the back room.

"I think he needs to be on his meds," Donaldson says of Mercer, the man who's picketing his store. But he does admit that the man caused him to close his store. He said inventory was not being handled correctly by his staff and that he's hired 12 new people to replace them. "I'm not making any statement about whether or not we owe anyone money until we do a full account of inventory, which we're doing right now," he says. "If you have any concerns, put them in writing."

Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.