Department of Justice seal U.S. Department of Justice

Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California

United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012

September 14, 2005
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947


Los Angeles, CA - A San Pedro man who allegedly punched holes in the bottom of his boat, causing it to sink and discharge oil into the waters of the Port of Los Angeles, was arrested this morning on federal charges.

David K. Bachtel, 42, who lives on a boat in San Pedro, was named in a seven-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles on September 7. The indictment accuses Bachtel of intentionally sinking - or scuttling - his 37-foot Chris Craft pleasure boat on March 5, 2005, which resulted in the release of oil into the waters of the Port. Bachtel is also charged with attempting to obstruct the Coast Guard's investigation of the sinking by preparing false California DMV paperwork and making false statements to Coast Guard investigators.

The Coast Guard is concerned about scuttlings because of the resulting oil pollution, as well as the navigational hazards posed to both larger ocean-going vessels and smaller pleasure craft that use the port and nearby shipping channels. The Coast Guard reports that during the past year it has found more than 30 scuttled boats in and immediately outside the Port.

The indictment alleges that Bachtel punched holes in the bottom of his boat on the evening of March 5, then used a small inflatable skiff to push and tow the boat into the middle of the Consolidated Slip Channel, where he allowed the boat to drift away and sink. However, the boat, which was constructed primarily of wood, did not completely sink. Rather, it drifted to the other side of the Channel with its bow protruding out of the water.

The following day, the boat was found by Coast Guard Marine Safety Officers on patrol in the Port. At that time, oil was coming from the vessel and causing a sheen on the water. Divers hired to contain the oil spill and raise the boat found numerous holes in the hull - holes made from inside the boat - that appeared to have been made with a round metal bar or pipe. The divers discovered that the registration numbers had been removed from the vessel.

The Coast Guard contacted Bachtel and inquired about the vessel. Bachtel stated, among other things, that he had sold the boat to another person and claimed he knew nothing about its sinking. On March 16, Bachtel allegedly submitted a release of liability form to the Department of Motor Vehicles falsely claiming that on March 1 he sold the boat for $100 to an individual named "Jose Lopez."

Bachtel is charged with destruction or injury to a vessel, discharge of a pollutant, discharge of a harmful quantity of oil, obstruction of an investigation, two counts of making false statements and one misdemeanor count of obstruction of navigable channels. If convicted of all counts in the indictment, Bachtel would face a maximum possible sentence of 31 years in federal prison.

Bachtel is expected to make his first court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard's Criminal Investigative Service; the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; the Los Angeles Port Police.


Release No. 05-130

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