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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. 06-055

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947

WASHINGTON STATE MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO LYING ABOUT THE SINKING OF HIS FISHING BOAT OFF CALIFORNIA COAST


Los Angeles, CA - A Ferndale, Washington man pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the sinking of his 73-foot fishing boat off the coast of Central California.

Ahmet Artuner, 53, who also uses the name "Turk," pleaded guilty to causing the United States Coast Guard to launch an unnecessary rescue mission and to making false statements to Coast Guard officials.

Artuner was the owner of the fishing vessel Junior, which was used to fish for squid off the California coast. On the night of March 29, 2003, approximately three miles southwest of Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, Artunerís fishing boat sunk. After the sinking, Artuner returned to the mainland on an inflatable boat.

After the vessel was sunk, the Coast Guard detected an emergency radio beacon coming from the Junior. The Coast Guard immediately initiated a search and rescue mission, but when it reached the location of the sunken ship, rescuers found nothing other than some floating debris, which included a small oil slick and a personal floatation device from the Junior. When the Coast Guard contacted Artuner as the owner of the vessel, he falsely stated that he was in Washington state and that he did not know who may have been on the ship when it went down. After these false statements, the Coast Guard continued its search and rescue mission for several more hours.

Artuner pleaded guilty this morning before United States District Judge A. Howard Matz, who is scheduled to sentence the defendant on October 4. At sentencing, Artuner faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in federal prison. As part of his guilty plea, Artuner has agreed to pay the Coast Guard $132,000 in restitution to reimburse the agency for the unnecessary search.

This case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division.

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Release No. 06-055

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