Ken Schaddeg and Rob Upham were duped by Bret Watkins.
Bret Watkins, alleged scam artist
Ken Schaddeg and Rob Upham worked hard to build their Wharfside Village island pet outfitter business, St. Johnimals. So when the time came for them to sell the business and move on, they hoped it would continue to be a successful venture for the new owner. Unfortunately for Schadegg and Upham, that new owner was Bret Watkins.
Upham took to the St. Johnimals Facebook page late last month in an appeal to fans of the business for Watkins’ contact info after Watkins skipped out on monthly payments to the former owners and subsequently began selling St. Johnimals inventory on eBay.
“When we sold St. Johnimals to him, we financed the business and the inventory and took a promissory note in exchange,” said Schadegg from his home in Rhode Island. “He was supposed to make monthly payments and right off the bat we had to harangue him. The fellow out and out lied; it was incredible.”
Watkins put some money down at the closing in July 2013, and almost immediately failed to make his monthly payment to Schadegg and Upham. When checks did arrive in the mail, they bounced. As Schadegg and Upham became concerned and began to investigate, they discovered they weren’t the only ones being taken for a ride by Watkins. He was also allegedly duping people out of tens of thousands of dollars under the pretext of truck sales, according to the Ripoff Report website.
“Bret Watkins is a perfect fraudster with a sugar-coated mouth,” reads a report posted on the site on February 24 by a North Brunswick, New Jersey poster who calls himself Yommie.
The post details how Watkins received a total of $35,000 from Yommie for four dump trucks and a motor grader which were never delivered.
“He has not been picking up my calls,” says Yommie’s post. “I am about to report him to the V.I. Police Department and the North Brunswick police.”
Another Ripoff Report filed in November 2013 details how “Chris” from Dallas, Texas paid Watkins $6,950 for a dump truck that was also never delivered. Chris updated his post later in November to report that after help from the VIPD and consistent follow-up, Watkins returned his money in full.
“He was basically lying to everybody but telling them all the same story,” said Schadegg. “St. Johnimals must have been a kind of distraction for him while he’s taking advantage of people by selling them trucks that don’t exist.”
As far as Schadegg knew, Watkins resided on St. Thomas, where he moved from Florida. Schadegg is unsure of Watkins’ whereabouts today. Other than prosecuting Watkins for writing bad checks, Schadegg and Upham don’t have much recourse.
“Unfortunately we’re just out of luck,” said Schadegg. “The inventory that he’s selling on eBay would’ve been all we could claim. He’s just an out and out scammer.”
Listings of St. Johnimals inventory on eBay have been reported to the online auction site. Watkins did not respond to repeated requests for interviews last week.
“We’re doing fine despite all this,” said Schadegg. “Rob got a job within two weeks of returning to the states and I’m a real estate agent. It was just kind of a double whammy for us to have him take advantage of us and kill the business that we worked so hard to build at the same time.”
“People need to be warned about Bret Watkins,” Schadegg added. “This is his way of life.”