Man Convicted for Obstruction of Justice and False Statements for Certifying Ships

On May 24 a federal jury in Miami convicted a Miami-based ship surveyor for lying to the Coast Guard and for falsely certifying the safety of ships at sea, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice; Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner, Commander, 7th Coast Guard District; and Jonathan Sall, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service.

The ship surveyor, was convicted by a federal jury in Miami of three counts of making false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard and one count of obstruction of an agency proceeding. The defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison on each count.

The jury found the surveyor guilty of lying to U.S. Coast Guard inspectors and a criminal investigator during an interview in April 2009 about the dry-docking of  a 68-meter cargo vessel, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The surveyor repeatedly claimed the vessel was dry-docked in Cartagena, Colombia, in March 2006, while evidence at the trial proved conclusively that the vessel was never in Colombia during 2006.

U.S. Coast Guard inspectors in San Juan discovered the vessel taking on water in August 2008 and requested information concerning the last dry-docking of the vessel. The surveyor concocted a false story about the vessel being dry-docked in Colombia in 2006 when he knew it was not.

The surveyor was also convicted of falsifying documents in December 2009 for an 92-meter cargo vessel. As the surveyor on behalf of Bolivia, Gonzalez certified the ship as safe for sea while the vessel was docked in Fort Pierce, Fla., in November 2009. When the vessel shortly thereafter arrived in New York City harbor, U.S. Coast Guard inspectors discovered exhaust and fuel pouring into the ship’s engine room, endangering the crew and the ship. For his action, the surveyor was convicted of making a false statement and obstructing a U.S. Coast Guard Port State Control examination.

Assistant Attorney General Moreno and U.S. Attorney Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Services. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Raich and Trial Attorney Kenneth Nelson, of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Sentencing is currently scheduled for Aug. 2, 2012, in Miami.

Source: United States Department of Justice

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