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Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California

United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Release No. 06-017

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February 10, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947


Los Angeles, CA - A San Pedro man who 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 convicted this afternoon on six federal charges.

David K. Bachtel, 42, who lives on a boat in San Pedro, was convicted 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 was specifically convicted of two water pollution counts, one count of attempting to obstruct the Coast Guard's investigation of the sinking by preparing false California DMV paperwork, two counts of making false statements to Coast Guard investigators, and one misdemeanor count of sinking a boat in a navigation channel.

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 it has found approximately three dozen scuttled boats in and immediately outside the Port during the past 18 months.

The evidence at trial showed 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 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 scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Robert M. Takasugi on May 8, at which time he faces a maximum possible sentence of 26 years in federal prison.

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


Release No. 06-017

Return to the 2006 Press Release Index

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