State Attorney: Fred Pace and Andrew Crisp, assisted by Leslie Pace, misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars from Legendary Marine.
An investigation that appears to have been launched following the discovery of a single email has resulted in the arrests of two former Legendary Marine executives and an associate.
Fred Pace, his wife Leslie Pace and Andrew "Tripper" Crisp have all been charged with racketeering and organized fraud. Assistant State Attorney Russ Edgar said law enforcement officials believe the three conspired to steal more than $250,000.
“From January 2010 through August 2014, while employed by Legendary Marine, Mr. Pace and Mr. Crisp, assisted by Mrs. Pace, misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of money, funds, credit, labor, services, and equipment that belonged to Legendary Marine,” a news release announcing the charges said.
“Mr. Pace and Mr. Crisp, assisted by Mrs. Pace, used their positions in the business to self-deal in multiple sales transactions at Legendary Marine for their own personal gain."
The Pace couple, who live in Port St. Joe, and Crisp, of Miramar Beach, turned themselves in Wednesday at the Escambia County Jail, where each was released after posting a $50,000 bond, jail records show.
Crisp, the Paces and a fourth person, Lance Miller, were all named in a civil suit filed in 2015 by Legendary Marine, which is headed by prominent Destin developer Peter Bos.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the civil suit filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which referred the matter to the First Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office. Edgar will prosecute the racketeering cases.
Civil court records indicate that Legendary officials found evidence of criminal behavior after coming across an email sent from Pace, who was no longer with the company, to Crisp, who would announce his resignation two days after receiving the correspondence.
Pace had been executive vice president and chief operating officer for Legendary Marine before his August 2014 termination. A letter attached to his August 2015 email to Crisp, Legendary’s marine manager, offered Crisp a job at MarineMax, a “direct competitor” of Legendary Marine, where Pace had been named regional president.
The email arrived the day after a non-compete clause in Pace’s employment agreement with Legendary expired. Its discovery “caused plaintiffs to review communications and information between and involving Pace and Crisp,” the civil suit said.
A probable cause affidavit filed at the time charges were brought against the Paces and Crisp lists 24 instances of alleged theft which occurred between 2010 and 2015.
Two charges state that Fred and Leslie Pace conspired to obtain expensive vehicles, a Cadillac Escalade and Mercedes-Benz SL550, at a cost much lower than retail price. The automobiles had been presented to Legendary Marine as trade-ins toward boat purchases, the affidavit said.
The affidavit states Leslie Pace bought the Cadillac for $15,000 and traded it in nine months later to her brother’s Georgia car dealership. She obtained a $29,500 trade-in for the Cadillac and used it to buy the Mercedes for $6,411. Fred Pace had rejected a $52,000 offer for the Mercedes before selling it to his brother-in-law’s business, the probable cause document said.
The estimated loss to Legendary Marine in the automotive trade offs was $42,000, according to the affidavit.
The probable cause affidavit states that Fred Pace and/or Crisp purchased personal use items, including a tractor, water pumps, a golf cart, Home Depot gift cards and hotel rooms with Legendary Marine money.
Crisp bought $2,000 of Home Depot gift cards with a company credit card in 2014. When asked why, he explained they were for use by employees of Legendary’s Fort Walton Beach location.
“According to Legendary Marine, the Fort Walton Beach location at the time was being built and did not have any employees working,” the affidavit said.
The affidavit also claims the Paces and/or Crisp wrote off work orders for repairs to their own boats and paid one employee twice, in the amounts of $2,154 and $4,000, for a Fort Walton Beach business permit that cost $2,154.
Crisp, the affidavit alleges, conspired with a local business owner to “conceal an estimated $25,089 of personal construction costs for Andrew Crisp and Fred Pace in an invoice that included legitimate costs for Legendary Marine’s Fort Walton Beach location project.”
The business owner told investigators he was specifically instructed not to talk about how the construction costs, at Pace’s Alabama property, had been paid for.
Attorneys representing Fred and Leslie Pace in the still ongoing civil suit filed by Legendary Marine did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment on the criminal cases.
Bos said he could not comment on the State Attorney’s Office findings, but did indicate much of what has been uncovered by the FDLE and State Attorney's Office can be found in thousands of pages of documents filed with the Okaloosa County Clerk of Court as part of the civil case.
An attorney for Legendary Marine did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Edgar said the criminal investigation is ongoing and more arrests are possible.