St. Louis, Mo., May 29, 2014 – Customers of Bret Michael Watkins say the St. Louis area businessman took thousands of dollars from them in phony truck and heavy equipment sales deals and thousands more in an unrelated pet store scheme, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
The customers say that Watkins took money for dump trucks and other merchandise that he never delivered. He also allegedly used eBay to sell upscale pet clothing and supplies he did not own.
BBB advises caution when doing business with Watkins, 41, who may be operating as Watkins Services. He formerly worked as a manager of used vehicle sales at a St. Louis truck sales company.
The alleged victims said they lost amounts ranging from $7,000 to $35,000 in deals spanning several states and countries. Complaints about Watkins began to surface in 2010 and have continued recently.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said the pattern of complaints against Watkins indicates that he represents a significant danger to consumers and businesses. “Anyone who comes in contact with Mr. Watkins should be very, very wary,” Corey said. “Our office has serious concerns about this man and his business activities.”
BBB first became aware of allegations involving Watkins in May 2010, when a businessman from Panama claimed that Watkins made off with $28,000 in commissions from the sale of eight dump trucks. In a recent email, the Panamanian businessman told BBB that he has been unable to locate Watkins, who still owes him the money.
This picture of a dump truck was sent to a businessman attempting to buy vehicles from Bret Watkins.
Last October, a businessman from Dallas, Texas, said he arranged to buy a 1986 Mack dump truck from Watkins for about $7,000. When his company went to pick up the truck, the person at the address had “never heard of Bret Watkins or the truck.” The businessman said Watkins refunded the money only after he badgered Watkins for three months, calling him numerous times and reporting the incident to St. John police and the island newspaper.
“I wanted to create as much havoc as possible until I got my money back,” the Dallas man told BBB.
In March, a New Jersey businessman reported that he bought four used Mack dump trucks and a Caterpillar grader from Watkins in November for $35,000. The New Jersey man said he flew to the Virgin Islands to meet with Watkins, who reportedly told him the vehicles were in Texas and would be shipped to Florida for pickup. The businessman said Watkins never delivered the vehicles and has refused to refund the money.
In an angry email to Watkins two months ago, the New Jersey man told him: “You are heartless, callous, wicked. You are a career scam artist who laughs, and other people are crying.”
The owner of a pet supply store in St. John, Virgin Islands, told BBB that Watkins and his wife came to the island last summer and entered into an agreement to buy the shop and its inventory for about $50,000. The owner said Watkins made a few monthly payments on the shop and then stopped paying. Earlier this year, the business owner said he discovered that Watkins had removed most of the inventory from the store and was selling it on eBay for about half its retail value.
The business owner said he later learned from store employees that people had been calling the shop claiming they had lost money to Watkins in a variety of schemes.
“He just disappeared,” said the Virgin Islands businessman, who said it appeared that Watkins was “running from something” when he first arrived in St. John last summer.
Attempts to reach Watkins by phone or email have been unsuccessful.
BBB has been working with law enforcement on the case.
Watkins grew up in the Jerseyville, Ill., area. It appears that in recent years, he has lived and worked in the St. Louis area and in Florida. At one point, he sold hot dogs in Florida under the business name Dogalicious.
Watkins Services was registered with the Missouri secretary of state in 2009, showing Bret Watkins as the owner. At that time, he reported an address on Briarbend Drive in St. Louis County.
BBB offers the following tips when doing business with a company or persons you do not know:
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle L. Corey, President and CEO, (314) 645-0606, email@example.com; Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org; Bill Smith, Investigator, (314) 584-6727, email@example.com
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. All BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses, 11,000 Charity Reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.