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Yacht Salesman Defrauded Boy Scouts

By Michael C. Burgess
Bureau Chief

Longtime San Diego yacht salesman Kenneth S. Anning, 51, pleaded guilty to defrauding the Boy Scouts to the tune of $300,000, before Judge Magistrate John Houston in San Diego on August 21.

He will appear before U.S. District Judge Napoleon Jones for sentencing on November 13 at 8.15 a.m.

“I falsified a document to obtain a $300,000 loan from Victor Elias, on behalf of myself and the Boy Scouts,” Anning told Judge Houston.

According to trial documents issued by U.S. Attorney James Brannigan, the Boy Scouts’ Desert Pacific Council paid Anning the money to cover brokers’ fees arising from the donation of Centurion, a $7.5 million luxury motor yacht built by Delta Marine in 1992.

The trouble is, the 125-foot megayacht, currently cruising Alaska’s inland waterways, was never donated, but Anning kept the $300,000.

In a telephone interview from his Seattle office, Dan Stabbert, whose company Venture Pacific Marine owns Centurion, said he believes Elias loaned the Boy Scouts the money with the intention of ultimately taking ownership of the yacht at a bargain price when the Boy Scouts put Centurion up for sale.

“Ken Anning was introduced to me as a friend and representative of Victor Elias,” Stabbert said.

According to Stabbert, Anning had flown to Juneau, Alaska, to meet him last summer when Stabbert was looking for a partner to share ownership of Centurion.

“We spent a couple of hours together. He was a very nice, very personable fellow,” Stabbert said. “We got along real well. He loved the boat. And he said, ‘Victor’s very happy and I’m very happy.’ And that’s the last I heard of him.

“The next I heard about it was the Elias family calling me saying, ‘Hey! We want to know how the Centurion is doing in her cruising down in the South America area.’ And I said ‘Why do you want to know that?’ And they said, ‘Well, it’s our boat. We want to know what’s going on.’”

Stabbert said his first response had been to assume the whole thing was a big joke. “I did laugh,” Stabbert said. “So then [Elias] said, ‘Hey! We provided funds for this vessel to be donated to the Boy Scouts.’”

“Elias thought that, through the Boy Scouts, he’d arranged to somehow get control of this ship,” Stabbart said.

San Diego’s close-knit community of yacht brokers is at a loss to understand why Anning, a businessman with longstanding roots in the county, would commit this crime given the spoils seem too small to warrant starting a new life beyond reach of the law.

News broke of the charges on August 9, and broker Ron Gullan, of Yachtfinders, who has no connection with the case, said, “It’s amazing that somebody would think they could get away with a scam like that. I was driving to work when I heard it on the radio and my jaw dropped with amazement.”

“It’s a sad day when you look at it that nearly 10 percent of our annual budget is out the door through a guy who is less than reputable,” said Dan McAllister, president of the Boy Scouts’ Desert Pacific Council. “It appears as though it was a fairly flagrant and oft-tried scheme to defraud people out of money. In other words: Go give me money; I’ll give you more back.”

It’s not as if the Boy Scouts’ regional body is gullible enough to make a down payment on, say, the Coronado Bridge. Anning has been consistently providing the Desert Pacific Council with donated boats for 15 years, ever since he left the company of Continental Yachts. During this period, Anning had organized the donation of 50 boats to the Boy Scouts.

McAllister said, “It appeared as though he had come to us with the mother of all boat deals.” He said all the paperwork and information had initially appeared to be order, and senior staff at Desert Pacific Council decided to put some money out on the promise that much more would come back.

Now they’re re-examining those past deals for irregularities.

“My inclination and, I think the inclination of Boy Scouts in general, is to move forward and make every effort to recover what we can of that which we know is gone.”

According to Stabbert, Centurion has a reputation for carrying the likes of Bill Gates and Jack Nicholson up and down the West Coast. It spends its summers in Alaska and winters off Mexico and the San Blas Islands.

“It’s one the West Coast is familiar with because it regularly goes up and down the coast on its way from South America and Mexico up to Alaska each summer,” Sarah Duffy, another yacht broker said. According to Duffy, Centurion made a few stops up and down the coast last year for people to view her at Santa Barbara, Marina Del Rey and Long Beach.

Duffy said Centurion is an expedition yacht. In other words, it can go places other megayachts cannot.

“Most of these big megayachts that you see floating around the Med or the Caribbean or St. Barts at Christmas have like an 8-foot, 9-foot draft,” said Duffy. “And rough weather does not fare well for them.”

Centurion, however, has a draft of 12 feet. It is one of the heaviest fiberglass yachts ever built. Its displacement is 515 tons “That in conjunction with its very deep draft makes it very stable on the water,” Duffy said.

Stabbert said Centurion was one of the most expensive yachts in the U.S. when it was launched in 1992. Delta is building two similar yachts now with a price tag of $20 million apiece.

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