Terry McManus is the owner of Flagler Golf Management, the company the City of Flagler Beach hired in 2015 to revive its Ocean Palm Golf Course at the south end of town, after the nine-hole course had sat fallow and overgrown for a decade.
The relationship between McManus and the city has been checkered with acrimony, including threats by the city to sever the lease, by McManus to sue, though since the end of 2018 relations improved somewhat and the course operated relatively steadily, if still not quite to the city manager’s satisfaction, who calls the golf course’s management “absolutely terrible.”
The course was among the first city amenities to reopen two weeks ago, after the shutdown required by the coronavirus emergency.
Then came this morning’s “Covid-19 edition of Fugitive Friday Bingo,” as Sheriff Rick Staly called it in his one-minute video clip on Facebook. The fugitive he picked? McManus. Circuit Judge Terence Perkins on April 29 signed a warrant for the 54-year-old businessman’s arrest on a charge of insurance fraud for less than $20,000, a third-degree felony, and a charge of making a false report, a first-degree misdemeanor.
“So here’s a guy that thinks he can defraud an insurance company, and we all pay outrageous fees already, and this is one of the reasons,” Staly says in his video feature. He did not seem aware that McManus has been in a five-year business relationship with Flagler Beach, or at least did not refer to it. McManus divides his time between Flagler Beach and Wellington, in South Florida.
McManus could not be reached by the time this article first published.
The case was triggered by McManus, who, within two days last September, reported two thefts to the Flagler Beach Police Department. By the time Flagler Beach Police detective Rosanna Vinci was done with her seven-month investigation, which included the help of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Tappen, British Columbia, a Caterpillar dealership in Canada, two National Crime Bureau agents red-flagging McManus over previous allegedly suspicious insurance claims, and a lot of chasing after McManus himself for documentation of his claims that never quite panned out, she concluded that he’d filed fraudulent claims of theft and in turn filed the charges against him.
According to Vinci’s detailed investigative report, McManus last Sept. 9 filed a burglary report, claiming that someone broke into his home and stole his Rolex watch valued at $25,000. Two days later, he filed another report claiming that another unknown person stole his Caterpillar Skid Steer and a trailer from the Ocean Palms golf course. After emailing his statements, which were invalid because they had not been notarized, he came to the police department six weeks later to write an official, sworn statement–but only about the Rolex.
Two days later Vinci got a call from Justin Kasman, an agent with Frasco Insurance claims. Kasman wanted to know about the detective’s investigation about the Rolex. “Kasman insinuated that the claim appeared to be suspicious due to McManus’s frequent history of making insurance claims for stolen property,” Vinci reported.
Vinci kept pursuing McManus for documentation on the two allegedly stolen vehicles, such as proof of purchase, serial and VIN numbers. He’d still not turned in any of it in early November. But he claimed the trailer was inherited from a family member and was never registered, and said he’d eventually provide documentation on the Skid Steer.
By January, he still had not done so, aside from an emailed serial number that may not have been accurate. But Vinci got another odd call, this time from Todd Blair, an agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. A Canadian machinery dealership had called Blair, wondering why one of its own Skid Steers was reported stolen, when the Skid Steer went straight from the manufacturing plant in North Carolina to the dealership in Canada. To ensure that there wasn’t a mistaken serial number, the department called McManus, who read the number again. It was the same as the dealership’s Skid Steer.
Vinci continued her investigation, pressing McManus for proof of purchase and other documentation. Numerous calls to him went unreturned.
An assiduous detective, Vinci found out that the Skid Steer in question had been sold to a family in April 2018. She located the family and the construction company where the piece of machinery was being used–in Tappen, British Columbia, and even got a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to track down both the family and the Skid Steer, take a picture of it, including the serial number, get a copy of the proof of purchase, and send it all to Vinci.
That was in early February. Within days, Vinci finally reached McManus and again asked why she had not received the proof of purchase and other documents she’d requested. A series of dog-ate-my-homework explanations followed: McManus said he’d lost his phone in Miami. He said he’d taken a trip to the Bahamas. He said he was in the process of moving and couldn’t find the requested paperwork. How were you able to read off the serial number over the phone then, the detective asked him? He said he’d read it off the insurance policy. He gave her the name of an insurance company in Palm Coast (“Tilton and Unger”). When Vinci asked him to at least give her the name of the company or the person who sold him the Skid Steer, McManus was “evasive,” the detective reported. She reminded him that he had yet to provide a sworn written statement about the alleged theft.
The insurance company in Palm Coast told the detective that it had indeed written a $45,000 policy for the Skid Steer, but that McManus never provided a serial number. Ironically, when McManus made a claim to recover the cost of the vehicle, the claim was denied: he’d not insured it for theft. But the paperwork, which Vinci subpoenaed, included signatures by McManus that acknowledged that “any person who knowingly and with intent to injure, defraud, or deceive any insurer files a statement of claim or an application containing any false, incomplete or misleading information is guilty of a felony in the third degree.”
Vinci filed the charge and forwarded it to the State Attorney’s office. Flagler Beach city commissioners were not aware of the charge against McManus this afternoon.
This is the second criminal matter McManus is battling in Flagler. Last July–about six weeks before filing the two reports of alleged thefts–he was charged with drunk driving after a police officer found him on a golf cart in a construction zone. It was his third DUI charge within 10 years, resulting in a third-degree felony charge.
“Based on the situation we’re at right now, depending what happens in the next few days, I think the city attorney will have to get involved,” Flagler Beach City Manager Larry Newsom said today. “Is it going to change what we do at the golf course? Potentially.”
Newsom added, “If we want to move forward I think we need to have a change in management.” He called current management “absolutely terrible.” He said he wanted to make a change a long time ago, “but we had three commissioners that decided not to do so.” The golf course has plenty of potential, he said.