GALVESTON, Texas – A 66-year-old Seabrook man has pleaded guilty to a violation of captain of the port order in connection with his illegal charter cruise business, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.
Gordon Johnson admitted to operating the MV SPANISH PRINCESS without complying with an order of the highest ranking U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) officer in the Houston-Galveston area. Johnson made false statements to authorities claiming he did have paying passengers on his ship. He also instructed passengers, one of whom was a police officer, to inform USCG personnel they were not paying passengers.
“The Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) is firmly committed to partnering with law enforcement agencies to identify and stop those who pose a hazard to the boating public,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Jeanfreau, CGIS Gulf Region. “Ensuring mariners are fully qualified to safely operate passenger vessels is of upmost importance to the USCG.”
As part of his plea, Johnson also admitted he engaged in another scheme in which he took money from a couple for a trip that never occurred. The couple paid him $20,000 to transport them on the MV SPANISH PRINCESS to Roatan, Honduras, where they were going to live. The trip did not happen, and Johnson only returned $1,000 of their money.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown accepted the plea and set sentencing for Nov. 1. At that time, Johnson faces up to 10 years in prison as well as a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He could also be ordered to forfeit the MV SPANISH PRINCESS.
Previously released on bond, Johnson was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The CGIS conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam L. Goldman prosecuted the case.