GALVESTON, Texas – Officials said a 66-year-old man has pleaded guilty to operating an illegal charter cruise business in Galveston.
According to the United States Attorney’s Office, Gordon Johnson said that he operated the MV SPANISH PRINCESS without complying with an order from the highest-ranking U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) officer in the Houston-Galveston area.
Johnson allegedly lied to authorities and claimed that he did have passengers who paid to be on his ship but then instructed them, one of whom was a police officer, to inform officials that they had not paid.
“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.”
Johnson also admitted that he had engaged in another scheme where he took money from a couple for a trip that never happened. The couple reportedly paid him $20,000 to transport them on the MV SPANISH PRINCESS to Honduras, where they were going to live however the trip never happened, and Johnson only returned $1,000 of their money.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown accepted the plea and set sentencing for Nov. 1, 2023. He will remain on bond until that date.
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.
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