Man sentenced to less than a year in ‘John Doe boat’ case

In a case that prosecutors characterized as the first in the country involving boat sales for life jackets, the Florida jilted man who masterminded the scheme was sentenced Friday to just under three years in prison by a Tampa judge.

Leon County Circuit Judge Melissa Marks ordered James Andrew Smith to pay restitution of more than $430,000 to his victims. Prosecutors said it was the largest restitution in American history for what amounted to a refund scam.

The scheme was tied to shipping boxes of life jackets along the beaches of Brevard County, which included Melbourne, just over the halfway point of the United States.

Smith, 32, pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering, home buyer fraud and dealing in unregistered property. His defense attorney, Jim Clark, said prosecutors’ case painted a “pretty hokey” picture of Smith, who had a master’s degree in shipbuilding, but that he was a good person.

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