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Local Man On The Hook For Boat In Anchorage
"Shame On Me For Trying To Help"
October 8, 2013

$2,980.42
For Pat Stockwell that is the cost of doing a favor for someone. Stockwell, the soft-spoken manager of the Inland Waterway Provision Company says he co-endorsed a check that was made out to Pascal Ott, a French citzen and owner of the vessel Primadonna which has been in Oriental’s harbor for almost a year. The check turned out to be counterfeit.

Pat Stockwell, whose favor to Pascal Ott has cost him $2,980.42. Seen here at the Provision Company where he works, Stockwell co-endorsed a check that bounced and says Ott, owner of the vessel Primadonna in Oriental’s harbor, has not given back any of the money he gained in that transaction.

Two weeks after the check first arrived in Oriental and set the incident in motion, Stockwell is still waiting for law enforcement to bring pressure on Ott to reimburse him. He’s hoping law enforcement can determine if the counterfeit check is part of a wider scam.

Helping The French Crew A Long Time

Pat Stockwell speaks quietly about what happened to him, almost embarrassed to talk about it. This week he says he is breaking his silence because he wants to warn others. “Shame on me,” he says, “for being someone trying to help.” He says he’s particularly concerned that others who’ve tried to help the French crew may be particularly vulnerable.

Pat Stockwell was not a stranger to Pascal Ott, who claimed that he had to stay in Oriental’s harbor because his engine would not work. (In July, after more than half a year in the anchorage, Ott told TownDock he needed only an engine starter, a ball of sail twine and 20 gallons of diesel in order to leave.)

Stockwell says he’s watched and listened to the controversy over Primadonna but never weighed in. By way of explaining how he ended up losing $2,980.42, Stockwell says he and his wife, Laurie, lived on a boat for more than 7 years and know that problems can happen with boats. In seeking that simple lifestyle, he says, complications can arise. That’s the basis for the empathy he extends to cruisers who come in the store, including Pascal Ott.

“I’ve never had anyone — in town or passing through — take advantage of me,” Stockwell says of his experiences, til now.

Since Primadonna and its crew of Pascal Ott and Monique Christmann arrived in Oriental last fall, Stockwell says Ott stopped in almost daily to visit him at the Provision Company. Stockwell helped him.

Pat Stockwell says he let Primadonna’s crew top off their batteries in the store overnight when the boat’s solar panels were not up to the task. He let them use the store’s courtesy bikes to get around town.

Laurie Stockwell says her husband “located unusual boat parts, found parts at discount prices, and located people to help Pascal with his needed repairs.”

In a recent letter, Laurie Stockwell noted that, “Pat has driven Pascal around the county on errands. He personally delivered Pascal’s damaged outboard prop to a repair person, and then later picked it up and returned it to Pascal.”

The Check

In late September, Pat Stockwell says Pascal Ott told him he was expecting a check that would be sent to Oriental’s Post Office. After picking up the check for $2,980.42 at the Post Office, Pascal Ott came to Stockwell at the Provision Company. He said the check was for a roller furler he’d sold on eBay (later it turned out to be Craig’s List) and that he wanted to cash it at First Citizens Bank. Problem was, Ott alone couldn’t endorse the check because he did not have an account there. Stockwell did, and said he would co-endorse the check.

What co-endorsing looks like. On the back of the check for $2,980.42, Pat Stockwell signed his name below Pascal Ott’s. Ott got the money from cashing the check.

That is where Pat Stockwell’s problems began. 

On Wednesday, September 25, Pat Stockwell put his signature under Pascal Ott’s on the back of the check. Ott left the bank, Stockwell says, with all of the $2,980.42. Stockwell says he was, at the time, happy to help. He understood that the money would pay for the engine starter that Ott said was necessary to leave Oriental’s public anchorage.

The Bounce

Then, a day later, Stockwell says, he got a call from First Citizens Bank saying that the bank’s fraud unit determined that the check was bad. The printed name at the top of the check was that of a real Raleigh company, Lulu Press, which does exist. However, the bank account cited on the check does not. The bank wanted that money it had given to Pascal Ott. If it couldn’t get that from him, the bank wanted Pat Stockwell – as the co-endorser – to pay up.

The company, Lulu Press does exist in Raleigh. It provides authors with a means to be self-published. It appears someone did self-publishing of another sort, printing this check made to look like it came from the real company’s bank account. It did not; there were no funds to back it up. But by the time this was learned Pat Stockwell had co-endorsed the check and Pascal Ott had the $2,980.42.

Faced with that news and what it would mean for him, Pat Stockwell got a friend to motor him out to Pascal Ott’s boat on Thursday the 26th. Pat Stockwell says he asked Pascal to pay the bank back.

Stockwell says he thought Ott, with whom he’s spoken only English for the past 11 months, clearly understood what he was being told – that the money had to go back to the bank. Stockwell says Ott told him he still had the roller furler he said he had sold, and for which the check was a payment. Stockwell says he thought he made clear to Ott that, “you’re spending my money. I’m on the hook.”



The following day, Friday, September 27, Stockwell says Ott came to the store. Stockwell says he told Ott again that Ott had to give the $2,980.42 back to the bank because the check was bad. Stockwell says that at one point, Ott told him that “‘the buyer (of the roller furler) was sending another check.‘” Ott stopped by the store on Saturday the 28th but Stockwell says, left only a phone number and email address.

Stockwell: Now I’m Paying The Price

Stockwell says he tried to use those to get in touch with Ott, but couldn’t.

He sent Ott an email, that, considering the circumstances, was polite in tone and was based on Ott’s story that another check would be coming and that this was all about a roller furler that was still in his possession.

Stockwell wrote, in part, “It would be helpful if you would bring all of the money you have left from the check and the furler to the store. On Monday, I will have to go to the bank and give them the money back that they gave you. If you leave the furler at the store until the “new” check arrives then we can hold it until this check (the second one Ott said was coming) clears the bank.”

Pat Stockwell.

“I do not mind trying to help you,” Stockwell wrote in an email he shared with TownDock.net. “However, this situation is a very big problem for me. I would appreciate your help in taking care of this problem.”

Stockwell who notes that he manages the store but doesn’t own it and makes a modest hourly wage, says he has received no response. And after almost a year of daily visits, Ott hasn’t come back to the store.

When it appeared Ott wasn’t paying back the money, Stockwell says he contacted Captain Dwaine Moore of the Oriental police department in the first week of October. He says Dwaine Moore went out to the boat, Primadonna, to talk with Ott. No formal charges were filed. Stockwell says that Moore left him with the impression that after his discussion with Ott, that Ott may do the right thing and return the money.

That has not happened.

On Wednesday, October 2, Stockwell says he had to write a check for $2,980.42 from his own personal account to First Citizens Bank. Later in the week, Stockwell says he told the police captain that things had gone nowhere.

The cost to Pat Stockwell of co-endorsing a check with Pascal Ott. Photocopy of the check Stockwell had to pay to his bank, First Citizens, after a check he co-endorsed with Ott bounced. Ott had received the entire $2,980.42 on September 25 and has not paid back any of it to Stockwell. (Stockwell’s bank account number has been intentionally covered.)

As of Tuesday morning, October 8, Stockwell says he’s heard nothing back from Ott. Somewhat abashed by being taken advantage of, Stockwell says he only brought the story to the attention of TownDock.net because, “I’m honestly afraid someone else will do the same thing” and be taken in.

TownDock has tried to contact Pascal Ott to ask about the eBay roller furler sale, whether he still had the equipment, whether he planned to pay Pat Stockwell back, and if he has received a second check from the person he says bought the roller furling on eBay. No one answered the phone and the voice mail box said it was not set up to receive messages. TownDock.net also sent an email to the address Ott left with Pat Stockwell. There has been no response.

Waiting On Law Enforcement

Oriental Police Captain Dwaine Moore and Officer Jason Collett both told TownDock.net late on Monday that they have not been able to rule out whether Ott “was a victim” in this, as well. Collett said Tuesday that he planned to visit Ott with further questions.

Pat Stockwell says it may be possible Ott was a victim, to a point, that Ott could of had an eBay transaction in which the bad check was used. But as Pat Stockwell puts it, “he still could have given me the money back.”

Pascal Ott, in September, rowing in Oriental’s Harbor where his boat, Primadonna has been anchored for almost a year.

But if Ott does still have the roller furler, along with the money from the check that was said to be payment for that furler, how can he classified as a victim? Jason Collett says that a police investigation has more criteria to nail down before ruling him out as a victim.

The other possibility, says Pat Stockwell,is that the man he tried to do a favor for, is “in on the fraud.” Stockwell says the bank’s fraud unit has told him that the way counterfeit check rings operate is to have someone cash a check – with a co-endorser who unknowingly will have to pay for everything. Then, the person presenting the check at the bank takes a cut and wires the bulk back to the ringleaders.

Pat Stockwell says that since what he calls Pascal Ott’s “payday,” Stockwell has learned that “he’s been spending it in a certain establishment that serves alcohol,” nodding in the direction of The Steamer, at Hodges and Broad. Regulars at the Tiki Bar at the Oriental Marina say that for the first time last week, they have seen Pascal Ott and Monique Christman, there as well. 

“Every dime they have spent since that day,” says Stockwell, “is my money.”

Stockwell says he hopes having his story out will “hopefully prevent anyone else from having this problem” with the crew of Primadonna.

primadonna crew
Pascal Ott and Monique Christmann, photographed recently at The Tiki bar. Pat Stockwell says they are spending his money. (Kim Snyder photo)
primadonna
Pascal Ott’s boat, Primadonna in the Oriental anchorage.

Update: In mid-October, Pascal Ott paid Pat Stockwell $500. Stockwell says Ott told him he would soon have the rest sent from France. It never came. Stockwell asked police to investigate but was told that it would be hard to prove “intent” to deceive. On November 5, Pat Stockwell filed a civil complaint – in small claims court – against Ott. He is still owed, he says, $2,480. Stockwell also had to pay court fees to file those papers against Ott. Ott was served on Monday November 11. On the 12th his boat was being towed to Morehead City.

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Posted Tuesday October 8, 2013 by Melinda Penkava