ProntoLeaks: How the Panama Sailing School came to an end

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Pronto Cash, closed down by the authorities and Mastercard, is not the only fraud Monte Friesner is running in Panama. The Panama Sailing School, which lists Mr. Friesner as its "Commodore", is a scam too, Bananama Republic has learned. On the website, Friesner makes a plethora of fraudulent misrepresentations, and internal correspondence obtained by us shows how unsuspecting clients and suppliers were swindled out of their money and then threatened by Friesner.

The adventures of Peter Fong and the fake certifications

First we were forwarded correspondence between Monte Friesner and one Peter Fong. Earlier this year, Mr. Fong wished to attend a sailing course under the certification of the prestigious American Sailing Association (ASA), and inquired about available dates and prices. Friesner urged Mr. Fong to make a reservation and deposit funds, but was extremely vague about dates and other classes that Fong could fit in with. The course Mr. Fong was looking for was the so-called 103 course, which costs $950.

Friesner's behavior became so erratic that Peter Fong contacted ASA to ask if this sailing school was legit. And guess what? Despite Friesner stating on his website that his sailing school is certified by ASA, it turned out that they are not an ASA certified school, and haven't been for years. Friesner, in other words, was offering courses he couldn't legally offer and requesting advance fees being paid for them.

Similarly, the Panama Sailing School website stated that they were members of ISSA, which also they are not. Last but not least, Friesner stated that they were sponsored by the prestigious Helly Hansen brand, which, we learned from their marketing department, is also a lie.

Friesner has since removed the images of these brands from his website, but we saved the evidence in a screenshot. What he didn't remove, however, are the fraudulent claims on the "about" page, which reads:

Panama Sailing School is an International Sailing School offering ASA certification courses, and courses are offered in English, Spanish.

Panama Sailing School is an affiliate of the American Sailing Association. ASA is the leading authority on sailing instruction and sailing schools in the United States.

Panama Sailing School is a member of the International Sailing School Association. ISSA is an international association and its constitution is ruled by the Swiss code. ISSA was created in 1969 on the initiative of the Glénans Sailing Centre together with Polish, Italian, Swiss and British sailing schools with the objective of giving international recognition to a growing number of sailing school organizations.

Helly Hansen are proud sponsors for Panama Sailing School.

Again, none of the above claims are true. It's all fake, a fraud. Luckily, Peter Fong discovered this in time before handing over money to Friesner, and what did Friesner finally write to the poor Mr. Fong in response?

Hey fuckup! You stated that you did not want the ASA Certificate!

Your next trial is September 25

Legal Department

Maybe he thought it was us?

Losing money

Did people indeed lose money because of Friesner's fraudulent activities? The answer is "yes". A vast cache of documents, emails, pictures and such recently obtained by Bananama Republic contained an email exchange with one student who took the 103 ASA course in 2009. Instead of providing the certificates after completion of the course, Friesner simply demanded more and more money, until ASA had to intervene. Writes the student to Friesner:

No ASA Certifications had been provided in the intervening weeks. It was not until a member of our group contacted the ASA to explain our problem that we began to get any traction with getting certificates issued. A member of the ASA staff had to contact the Panama Sailing School and get the staff there to correct its bookkeeping mistakes before the ASA would issue certificates.

Friesner, true to form, replied with threats. After first telling this student that he should hire an attorney in Panama, he wrote:

You created your own problems and the you are the Master of your own Fate. Have your attorney correspond with us.

That was, as we understand it, the beginning of the end of Friesner's ASA certification.

The French Kiss and anal sex

Under Friesner's "management", he couldn't even keep his boat - they had only one - in the Flamenco marina. He was kindly asked to leave after he invited the marina manager and her secretary to lunch and then asked the two women point blank if they liked anal sex. Friesner has a history of sexual harassment, with complaints being filed, but none have led to prosecution as far as we know.

The boat, aptly called the French Kiss, had its own set of troubles. They were using it for courses, but also trying to sell it. Despite claims on the website that the Friesner fleet is being maintained on a daily basis, we obtained one email from then captain Miguel Botero from September 2009:

MONTE!!! URGENTLY!!! I don't know if you have read my email about the maintenance needed to be done on the boats specially french kiss, but anyways that boat is not in conditions to show it to a possible buyer... for example the students from last weekend class, even though they had a blast and learned a lot, they complained about the status of the boat specially how it smelled inside... i am not kidding, its a combination between shit and mold smell they said.

On top of the smell of Friesner's poopoo, there were problems with the documents of the boat - there were none - and it was difficult to get a registration while there were still liens on the vessel. Yacht broker Scott Duncombe offered one solution:

Dear Monte: I just spoke to a very knowledgeable documentation agent by the name of Jane Beale who owns a marine doc agency - Gloria Rector Vessel Documentation located here in Lakeland Florida www.janebeale.com. I sent Jane a copy of the paperwork that you provided to me, she recommended an easy way to ease buyer’s concerns with regards to the vessel’s non-titled or registered status. Jane suggested obtaining a Florida Title on “French Kiss V” in order to ease the ownership transfer process. The title can be easily obtained by sending Jane the original “Manufactures Statement of Origin” a copy of Tatiana’s passport and completing a power of attorney form for her to process the paperwork for you. The fee for this is only $100 – she walks into the local state title office and walks out the same day with a “Quick Title”. There are no Florida taxes involved because the boat is not in Florida – this is obtained for what they call the “Purpose of ownership”. I just did this myself for a tender title on a resent deal.

Eventually, the boat was sold to an Australian, the correspondence shows.

Busted Biminis

Before that sale took place however, there were more obstacles to be cleared for Friesner. Like, having to pay for a set of biminis for the French Kiss. Fraudsters like Friesner don't like paying, and prefer to threaten and harass instead. So, two Taboga based sailmakers provided two custom made biminis to the agreed specifications, and then trouble ensued. From the sailmakers to Friesner:

In this letter I refer to my telephonic conversation yesterday with your secretary at Panama Sailing School and your previous cryptic telephone call to me regarding the two biminis ordered, manufactured and installed on your boat "French Kiss".

The biminis were made exactly to verbal specifications as discussed with and agreed to by your appointed representative, Carlos Lampas, the captain of the said vessel.

The work was performed in a manner to maximize shade while taking into consideration safety and movement in and around the cockpit and the project was executed perfectly to international standards and delivered on time. The physical dimensions of both biminis were agreed to after considering the safety of operation, the ability of the crew to operate all sailing hardware without obstruction and the free and unencumbered movement of crew and passengers in and around the cockpit.

However, it now appears that you and your secretary are dissatisfied with the size regardless of the fact that your original appointed agent, Mr Carlos Lampas, was more than satisfied with the finished product.

As explained to your secretary (who knows nothing about boats or sailing), we can increase the front bimini by a maximum of 14 inches by adding another removable bow and zip-on cover (which at no time came into consideration during our previous discussions), which, when removed would allow for the necessary cockpit space required when the vessel is being raced. If left on, the extra piece will provide additional cover for one person sitting on either side of the cockpit. But the down-side is that the use of the front winches will be impeded and the movement of the crew and passengers in and around the cockpit will be hindered and in adverse weather conditions the area will become unsafe.

If this addition is agreed to I cannot accept responsibility or liability for any injuries sustained by crew or passengers during a cruise or race due to an oversized bimini hindering their safe movement to get out of the way of the boom during a jibe or coming-about.

I will, however, on your instruction add these additional 14 inches only once you have signed this disclaimer. The cost will be $550.

Furthermore, and consequent to your last telephone call to me yesterday in which you threatened me with deportation, confiscation of my boat and business assets and all manner of physical harm and thereafter putting the telephone down on me before I was able to make response to any of your accusations of impropriety and over charging ( when as a favour I discounted your bill by about 30%), and not responding to any of my subsequent calls to you forcing me to deal with people incompetent in this field, I have come to the following decision: BEFORE any more work is performed by myself on these biminis payment of the outstanding balance owing of $1700 will have to be paid to me at my loft in Taboga, in cash. 

Instead of paying what was due and appreciating a sailmaker who was worried about safety of crew and passengers, Friesner responded with more threats and wacky legalese sounding rambling:

The Denuncia against your fictitious company and you is proceeding due to your failures to abide by your own agreements. Due to your slanderous and libelous statement of this note, I will be further filing a criminal action against you. Govern yourself accordingly.

(...) You are also forbidden to trespass on any of the sailing and power vessels either owned or under the management of Panama Sailing School as of Saturday October 24, 2009 from 8:00 AM for an indefinite period of time. Any infraction of the above will be administrated to the full extent of the Criminal Act of the Republic of Panama. You are also hereby notified that an action has been formulated against PANAMA CANVAS and you personally in the Republic of Panama to the full extent of the law. As a courtesy , I am advising you to seek competent legal representation best to your benefit. A response to this notification will not be respected!

The sailmakers left Taboga - and Panama - with unknown destination shortly thereafter.

A hollow shell

The former offices of the Panama Sailing School, now home to another - unrelated - company. Today, the glorious Panama Sailing School is nothing but an empty shell. All that remains is a mutilated website. There are no boats, contrary to what the site says. It also lists offices at the Amador causeway, but these have been vacated months ago (the picture, taken today, shows that another - unrelated - company has taken over the space). Like everything else that Monte Friesner touches, the saling school, for all practical purposes, does not exist any more, other than in Friesner's imagination, and through his attempts to steal a few bucks from aspiring sailors looking for a place to take a course.

[This is the first of a series of articles based on a cache of documents, emails, pictures and other evidence that was leaked to us from inside the Friesner criminal enterprise.]

4 thoughts on “ProntoLeaks: How the Panama Sailing School came to an end

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