The state and KeyBank are suing a former Boise jet-boat maker who allegedly took customers’ deposits and then left town with boats unbuilt as he launched a new recreation business near Niagara Falls.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said Christopher Bohnenkamp and his businesses must repay customers who say Bohnenkamp bilked them out of tens of thousands of dollars.
KeyBank separately sued Bohnenkamp, his wife, Rachel, their now-defunct Idaho businesses and current New York businesses, and their business partners. KeyBank says its customers took out loans totaling more than $727,000 between October 2012 and December 2014 to pay for boats they never received.
The Idaho Statesman reported in July that Bohnenkamp and his boat sales and manufacturing companies had been sued multiple times by disgruntled customers and by companies trying to collect on unpaid bills.
One of those customers, Mike Sanders, of Boise, said Wednesday that he has lost hope of recovering the $50,000 he prepaid Bohnenkamp for a boat. He received only an unfinished trailer and hull.
I’ve kind of moved on. I’m not going to let it weigh me down.
Mike Sanders, disgruntled customer, after learning of the state’s lawsuit against Bohnenkamp
“It would be nice if justice were served,” Sanders told the Statesman. “I’m not holding my breath.”
Bohnenkamp’s lawyer, Mia Murphy, of Meridian, declined to comment.
THE STATE’S LAWSUIT
In his lawsuit, filed Wednesday in 4th District Court in Boise, Wasden said Bohnenkamp violated Idaho’s Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits deceptive practices.
Wasden wants a judge to prohibit Bohnenkamp from advertising or doing business in Idaho and to pay the Attorney General’s Office $5,000 for each violation of the law and $5,000 for attorney fees and costs.
The lawsuit names Bohnenkamp’s two Boise jet boat businesses, Bohnenkamp’s Whitewater Customs and Treasure Valley Marine. Both were located at a warehouse at the corner of Curtis and Morris Hill roads before Bohnenkamp left for Youngstown, N.Y., about a year ago to start a jet-boat tour business, Niagara Jet Adventures.
“Defendants have engaged in a pattern or practice of false, misleading or deceptive business practices by failing to deliver custom-built jet boats and trailers to multiple consumers who prepaid defendants thousands of dollars,” the lawsuit says.
KeyBank, which sued earlier this month in 4th District Court, lists 48 counts of breach of contract, acting in bad faith, fraud and using KeyBank loan proceeds from customers of Bohnenkamp’s Idaho businesses to build boats for Bohnenkamp’s new jet-boat-tour business on the Niagara River.
The Statesman previously reported that at least six customers had secured loans through a local KeyBank branch at Bohnenkamp’s suggestion.
Couer d’Alene construction worker Brice Vineyard told the Statesman in July that Bohnenkamp talked him into financing a 22-foot boat through KeyBank instead of through a credit union, offering to take an additional $2,000 off the quoted $65,000 price if the loan came from KeyBank.
A KeyBank spokesman told the Statesman then that he could not comment, citing customer confidentiality.
THE COMPLAINTS MOUNT
Bohnenkamp is still battling lawsuits from customers in Idaho.
And two lawsuits filed last August in Idaho and New York raised other allegations:
▪ Michael Fox, Bohnenkamp’s partner in Niagara Jet Adventures, claims Bohnenkamp never paid him $2.2 million for transferring his 51 percent ownership of the company to Bohnenkamp. Fox seeks $6.2 million in damages and $10 million in punitive damages for each of nine complaints — a total of nearly $100 million.
▪ Former Bohnenkamp customer Kelley Tuttle, who lives in Nevada, is suing Bohnenkamp for not delivering a prepaid, $147,241 jet boat. Tuttle’s lawsuit also accused KeyBank of being a conspirator in a scheme to lend consumers money to buy boats that bank employees knew Bohnenkamp’s businesses would not produce.
The FBI also has investigated Bohnenkamp. The Statesman obtained emails from the Idaho Transportation Department that said an FBI agent and a KeyBank attorney, Neil McFeeley of Eberle Berlin, were looking into complaints to see “if there is criminal activity or if it’s a civil matter.”
Several customers told the Statesman in July that an FBI agent in Boise interviewed them. Sanders said Wednesday that the agent told him two months ago that the investigation was continuing. The FBI has told the Statesman that it will not comment.