Investigators say Kendall man filed bogus boat crash claim

A Kendall man is in Monroe County jail on grand theft and fraud charges after state investigators say he tried to swindle an insurance company out of $14,000 by filing a false claim about a boat accident that never happened.

Jose Alberto Vargas, 49, was arrested by investigators with the Florida Department of Financial Services Bureau of Insurance Fraud on Thursday. According to the arrest affidavit, Vargas stated in the May, 31, 2015, claim that he grounded his 1993 Mako boat in the Keys the day before, and he invoiced the insurance company, Boat U.S., $14,000.

The problem is, according to investigators, the vessel was sitting on a boat rack at the Tavernier Creek Marina the day he said the vessel ran aground, and records show the last time it was in the water was May 22 of that year.

In an interview with a Boat U.S. surveyor two months later, Vargas said he could not be sure when the boat ran aground.

Records from then marina show the boat was taken to the repair rack on May 28, 2015, and mechanics found the engine was full of water and one cylinder was bad. The marina said repairs would cost $6,000.

The investigators conducted a records search in September of this year and found out that Vargas did not own the boat at the time he said it grounded. His father did and did not transfer ownership of the vessel to his son until August 2015.

“This investigation results did reveal substantial evidence to indicate the defendant Vargas willfully deceived and gave incomplete and misleading information regarding the dates and damage to his 1993 Mako boat in an attempt to defraud Boat U.S. out of $14,000,” the investigators wrote in their report.