Business

Former Boise jet-boat maker who cheated customers pleads guilty, cries

Christopher Bohnenkamp, right, accepted between $1.5 million and $3.5 million for boats before skipping town and starting another business in near Niagara Falls in New York.
Christopher Bohnenkamp, right, accepted between $1.5 million and $3.5 million for boats before skipping town and starting another business in near Niagara Falls in New York. Twitter

Christopher Bohnenkamp, 42, the former jet-boat maker who took customers’ money, didn’t complete their orders and left Boise for New York, pleaded guilty Wednesday to fraud charges, then hung his head and cried.

Bohnenkamp listened to federal prosecutors’ allegations that he acted with “intent to deceive or cheat” customers and suppliers, taking large payments for boats he never delivered and continuing to buy materials on credit without the money to pay it back.

Bohnenkamp knew his companies were broke but continued to dupe more than a dozen customers, the plea agreement said.

Among other things, he admitted responsibility for a false bill of sale, which was submitted to a bank in 2012 for a loan to one of his customers. He was to receive most of the $272,982 loan’s proceeds.

Bohnenkamp told U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill that his intent was “to help the customer get the loan.” When the judge asked him to clarify, Bohnenkamp said he gave false information to the bank to make the loan more likely to be approved.

Bohnenkamp owned Treasure Valley Marine and Bohnenkamp’s Whitewater Customs. The Statesman reported in 2015 that he had taken former customers’ money without fulfilling their orders, and then moved to upstate New York to start a new boat-tour business. The customers had each given Bohnenkamp five- and six-figure sums to build their boats.

Prosecutors said he spent the money on a lavish lifestyle, vehicles, jewelry, dining out and gambling trips.

Under the plea deal reached last week, prosecutors dropped 25 counts of fraud. Bohnenkamp pleaded guilty to one count each of wire fraud and bank fraud, and he waived his rights to a trial and appeal. He is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 8, and victims are expected to testify.

Bohnenkamp’s crimes are each punishable by up to 30 years in prison and five years of supervised release, in addition to a $1 million fine. Winmill told Bohnenkamp that he is not eligible for probation.

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @audreydutton

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