SANTA CRUZ—The Santa Cruz Police Department arrested Patrick Barry Aki, 40, of Santa Cruz County after it was discovered that he scammed people in a widespread defrauding and check writing scam. Patrick was arrested on Monday, September 10.
The arrest stems from the Santa Cruz Dive Expo, an event that was originally planned to be held at the Santa Cruz Harbor but was eventually held at the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf on July 7. Aki was the primary organizer of the Expo.
The Expo was supposed to be a fundraiser for the O’Neil’s Sea Odyssey youth program. The youth program benefits fourth through six graders from local schools throughout Central California. The program provides free-of-charge hands-on lessons about marine habitat and the importance of the relationship between the living sea and the environment, all while riding on board a 65-foot catamaran.
“Aki promised us that we would get the proceeds from the door receipts,” Dan Haifley Executive Director of the O’Neil Sea Odyssey Organization said. “ He never intended to pay us the money. I just feel for the other vendors, they put money into the Expo.”
Aki failed to pay several other businesses for services they provided that included the City of Santa Cruz providing the land use permit. Aki wrote checks from a closed account to prolong his fraudulent scam.
“Mr. Aki preyed on the wrong organization. The O’Neil Odyssey is one of the most respected organizations we have in Santa Cruz,” Santa Cruz Police spokesperson Zach Friends said. “They did a lot of good work on this case. If it was not for them we would not have Mr. Aki in jail today.”
Aki was arrested and charge with fraud due to the diligent work of the staff of O’Neil’s Sea Odyssey Organization that provided key information about the scam. Investigators also found that Aki wrote a check to purchase a truck from a Santa Cruz County dealership and possibly a dealership in Washington State. Both checks were written from a closed account.
Due to the extent of the local scam, investigators believe that there may be additional local victims. Police believe that Aki may be involved in other scams that are generally dive related.
The Santa Cruz Police Department is asking anyone with additional information to contact Detective DeOcampo at 831-420-5832 or leave a tip on their website.
Oakland Tribune: Santa Cruz Police Accuse Man of Holding Fraudulent Fundraiser
KION: Police Say Santa Cruz Man Used Bad Checks to Scam Local Non-Profit