Nonprofit says they were cheated by company that sold them faulty forklift

Civil action may be necessary, county officials say

By Layron Livingston - Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - It took a couple of turns of the key, but the motor finally roared to life.  

Tony Fitzgerald said he paid $2,500 for a faulty forklift, and it has become his biggest frustration.

Fitzgerald helps run Starting Over Enterprises, a nonprofit that helps men who are underemployed, homeless, or fresh out of the criminal justice system reform their lives.

"I'd been building cabinetry for years, so I started a small shop, and it turned into this," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald took the "Leave it to Layron" team on a tour of the organization's warehouse, which is full of high-tech building equipment. There were pallets of wood and cabinetry throughout the space and several men busily operated the machines. 

Fitzgerald said the goal is to teach the men in his program how to use the state-of-the-art equipment.

Within a year, they should be able to start over with the skills to go out, find a job and support themselves and their families.

He said they don't just build cabinets, they rebuild lives.

"We help a lot of people," Fitzgerald said. "When we get taken advantage of, it's kind of upsetting."    

Fitzgerald said the warehouse's old forklift was no longer reliable, so he decided to call up the owner of Blue Marine Shipping.

"I've done a lot of business on a handshake," he said. "It's worked out most of the time."

Fitzgerald said the nonprofit paid $2,500 for the forklift, and put $1,000 down on a second one.  

The second forklift was never delivered. The one that did come has never worked properly.

"The whole mast just started falling over. I mean, it wouldn't stay up," Fitzgerald said. 

Then there's the matter of the semi-trailer trucks. Five of them were purchased months before the forklift deal went bad.   

Fitzgerald said he paid Blue Marine nearly $20,000 for the trailers, which he uses for storage.

He said the trailers were delivered, but he is still waiting on titles. According to Fitzgerald, one title was sent earlier this year, but it does not match any of the trailers parked outside of the warehouse.

The LITL team went looking for Blue Marine Shipping and its owner. The company has an active license to do business in the state.

The address listed on the company website took us to an accounting business in Hialeah.  A woman who worked at the front desk told the LITL team Blue Marine used to have a mailbox in the building, but the relationship ended several weeks ago because the rent was not paid.

We sent emails and tried calling Blue Marine to no avail. We went by what is believed to be the owner's home. It was gated, and no one ever came to the door. 

A man who identified himself as "Robert" eventually answered one of our many calls. When asked about Starting Over Enterprises, the forklifts and the trailers, he said, "Unfortunately, all of that information is out of my hands."

He took our phone number, but when asked if he could provide a physical address, he would not give us one. We were told we'd get a return phone call, for which we're still waiting.

"We're a charity," Fitzgerald said. "We've done business with you, and this is what you want to do to us?" 

Miami-Dade's Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources has since logged a complaint against Blue Marine Shipping.

The issue was later referred to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.  A representative said because this was a private sale and Blue Marine isn't a licensed dealer, civil action may be necessary. The department is also "looking into the matter to make sure this company, or its owner is not potentially operating as an unlicensed dealer."

"I just want him to make good on his promise," Fitzgerald said. "I'm not asking for anything more, but I don't want anything less. I want what's owed us." 

If you have a problem, send an email to the Leave it to Layron team at Layron@Local10.com.

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