Boston Magazine - Hook, Line, and Sinker 5-15min

He told potential investors he was about to salvage billions of dollars’ worth of Russian platinum lost inside the Port Nicholson when it was sunk en route to New York from Halifax. It would be easy. Brooks talked about potential returns as high as 100 to 1 and “was throwing out the word ‘guaranteed,’” claims Gorham resident Gary Auger. “He sold it like we were going to be multimillionaires within a year.” ... In Gorham, a town of 16,000 just outside of Portland with a tiny historic district, word of mouth spreads fast and reputation counts for a lot. Important for Brooks, the enterprise enjoyed the backing of one of Gorham’s most respected citizens: John Hardy Sr., a La-Z-Boy store owner and generous philanthropist who was Brooks’s landlord and only partner in Sea Hunters. Many people in Gorham trusted Brooks because Hardy vouched for him. One early meeting about Brooks’s venture took place after-hours at Hardy’s store in nearby Scarborough, with potential investors standing among the La-Z-Boys to hear the pitch. ... Brooks and Hardy raised a total of $5 million in 2008 and 2009 to salvage the Port Nicholson—much of it from small, middle-class investors in southern Maine, some from deeper-pocketed speculators in New York City. ... After a third summer with no returns, investors were growing concerned. Brooks blamed bad weather, rough currents, lost anchors, and equipment failures. “It seemed like every time he was just about to get it,” Auger says, “all of a sudden, he needed more money.” ... The two U-boat hustlers found each other. Michaud helped Brooks search for documents about his alleged Casco Bay U-boat. And Brooks helped Michaud hunt for his elusive sub, until—according to a court filing by Michaud—Brooks’s towfish was eaten by a shark.