Everett firefighter accused again of improper dealings

EVERETT — A Florida couple who say an Everett firefighter scammed them out of $1,100 when he bought their motor home last month have been calling City Hall in an effort to get the money.

City officials say they plan to ask the firefighter about it when he returns from vacation.

It’s the second time in two years that firefighter Eric Watson, 44, has been accused of improper behavior and untruthfulness. He has been an Everett firefighter since 1994.

Prosecutors in 2013 considered criminal charges after Watson was found in possession of antiques taken from the burned-out McCrossen Building downtown.

At the time, prosecutors declined to file charges, saying that Watson showed poor judgment and gave police conflicting statements, but they couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew the antiques were stolen. That’s a requirement under state law to convict someone of possessing stolen property.

Meanwhile, police in Florida say the motor home dispute is a civil matter, but they have not been able to reach Watson to collect a statement.

Watson has not responded to six phone calls and two voicemails from a deputy, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

The couple making the accusations, Dino Palmisano, 56, and his wife, Julia Recupero, 54, started calling the Everett Fire Department and the mayor’s office when their communication with Watson faltered after the sale, Recupero said.

The couple live in a retirement community in Delray Beach, Florida, between Miami and Palm Beach.

Recupero had posted an advertisement on a free classified website for their 21-foot 1985 Ford motorhome. It had 53,000 miles.

The price was “$6,000 or best offer.”

Before putting the RV up for sale, the couple had it checked over by a mechanic, Recupero said.

“We have never had a problem with the RV and even if you looked underneath where it was stored, nothing drips, we have no oil leaks, we’ve never had a problem with it,” she said.

After posting the ad, the couple got a call from Watson, who identified himself as a Seattle-area firefighter who was visiting family in Florida, Recupero said.

Watson bought the RV without taking it for a test-drive or to a mechanic for inspection. Watson told them he and his family were low on cash and the family was cramped vacationing in a rental car, she said.

He offered them $4,500, and they agreed to the price.

Watson reportedly gave them about $3,400 in cash and money orders, and made a PayPal payment of $1,100.

The couple signed over the title, and the Watsons drove away. That was July 27.

PayPal often takes a couple of days to process a transaction, Recupero said.

After a few days, though, the $1,100 the couple was owed was still on hold. Recupero called PayPal and was told her payment had been deemed an unauthorized transaction. PayPal told her that Watson called the company and said his account had been hacked, and the $1,100 charge was bogus, she said.

Watson and the couple spoke on the phone and exchanged text messages. Watson told them the RV broke down and needed expensive repairs, Recupero said.

The couple say they made the sale in good faith and are owed the amount they were promised.

They sent documents from the sale to the city of Everett over the weekend. Copies also were taken by police in Florida.

Watson is scheduled to return from vacation next week, Everett city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.

“We are compiling the alleged information from the Florida couple and will review with Watson on his return,” she said.

In the McCrossen case, Watson reportedly bought antiques from someone selling the wares out of a pickup parked in the same block as the burned-out building. Police and prosecutors had difficulty in that case because some of the folks who had accused Watson were themselves involved in trespassing and other potentially illegal behavior at the fire site.

There also was a demolition contract and landlord-tenant disputes that made for cloudy ownership of salvaged items.

A fatal fire gutted the historic McCrossen Building at 1814 Hewitt Ave. in November 2012. The building has since been demolished.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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