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Former yacht broker charged with fraud

Nearly four years after emptying his bank accounts and disappearing from Dana Point, Calif., a former yacht broker was arrested Friday in South Florida and charged with defrauding 26 victims of more than $1 million.

Edward S. Fitzgerald, 60, is charged with eight felony counts of theft from an elder, 19 felony counts of using untrue statements in the purchase or sale of a security, 17 felony counts of grand theft and 14 felony counts of issuing non-sufficient checks with the intent to defraud. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 58 years in state prison, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

From 2007 to 2008, Fitzgerald owned and operated a local brokerage, Dana Island Yacht Sales and Charters. After leaving in 2009, earlier reports indicate, Fitzgerald mailed letters to friends and employees asserting that he hadn’t done anything illegal. The letters were postmarked from San Diego, according to a report by The Dana Point Times.

Sean O’Brien, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, said Fitzgerald has two choices:

• ?Waive extradition: Sheriffs would travel to Florida to bring him back for booking in Orange County.

• ?Fight extradition: If Fitzgerald goes this route, O’Brien, said a Florida court would have to determine whether the man arrested is Edward Fitzgerald. If a court in Florida confirms his identity, Gov. Jerry Brown would issue a request for Fitzgerald’s return to California. O’Brien said this process could delay Fitzgerald’s return by two or three months.

The case got considerable press on the West Coast (click here for a 2009 report by the Orange County Register) and even prompted the creation of the blog “Where is Ed Fitzgerald.”