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Former Boise jet-boat builder Bohnenkamp pleads not guilty

Christopher Bohnenkamp, left, his wife, Rachel Bohnenkamp, look away from the camera as they enter the federal courthouse in Boise with Boise attorney Chuck Peterson before Bohnenkamp’s arraignment Monday.
Christopher Bohnenkamp, left, his wife, Rachel Bohnenkamp, look away from the camera as they enter the federal courthouse in Boise with Boise attorney Chuck Peterson before Bohnenkamp’s arraignment Monday. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Christopher Bohnenkamp, the former Boise jet-boat builder who federal investigators say accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars for custom boats he did not deliver, pleaded not guilty Monday to felony fraud charges.

Bohnenkamp faces 21 counts of wire fraud totaling nearly $1.7 million and six counts of bank fraud totaling more than $1 million. According to the indictment, each count of both types of fraud is punishable by 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, a $1 million fine and a $100 special assessment. In addition, prosecutors seek to seize assets.

Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush set 1:30 on Monday, Dec. 19, for a trial estimated to last 10 days at the Boise federal courthouse.

Bohnenkamp’s actions also have drawn a string of lawsuits.

▪ A handful of lawsuits were filed by customers who say he took prepayments to build boats at his Boise businesses, Bohnenkamp’s Whitewater Customs and Treasure Valley Marine. Bohnenkamp closed shop in Boise before moving last year to Youngstown, N.Y.. There, he opened Niagara Jet Adventures, a jet-boat touring company working on the Niagara River using boats he manufactured.

▪ Mike Fox, his former business partner at Niagara Jet Adventures, and KeyBank, where Bohnenkamp customers took out loans totaling more than $727,000, also sued him.

▪ The Idaho Attorney General’s Office sued Bohnenkamp for deceptive business practices. Bohnenkamp and the state settled when Bohnenkamp agreed to pay nearly $415,000, including repaying $372,000 to eight customers who filed complaints.

Tara Esquivel of Idaho City paid nearly $199,000 to Bohnenkamp for a jet boat that was never delivered, according to the indictment. She was one of 15 victims customers listed only by initials only on the document.

Esquivel is among customers who have sued Bohnenkamp. She is being sued in turn by her bank, Washington Trust, for nonpayment on her loan.

Esquivel told the Idaho Statesman that she and her husband, Lance, became friends with Bohnenkamp and his wife, Rachel. The couples boated together, she said.

Esquivel said she provided information to an FBI agent about her business with Bohnenkamp. “I know he’s innocent until proven guilty, but it finally feels like somebody said there needs to be justice done here,” she said.

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