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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. 06-108

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August 17, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947


Los Angeles, CA - The chief engineer of a Greek shipping vessel has pleaded guilty to a criminal water-pollution charge, admitting that he directed crew members to install a "magic pipe" that allowed the ship to dump oil into the ocean.

Ioannis Georgios Vafeas, 41, a citizen of Greece, pleaded guilty Wednesday afternoon before United States District Judge George P. Schiavelli in Los Angeles. Vafeas pleaded guilty to a felony count of failing to maintain accurate records relating to the handling and overboard disposal of oil-contaminated sludges and wastewaters.

Vafeas was the chief engineer of the M/T Georgis Nikolos, which arrived at the Port of Long Beach on June 4, 2006, equipped with a hose to bypass an important water pollution-control device known as the oil-water separator (OWS). During his court appearance yesterday, Vafeas admitted that on numerous occasions prior to his arrival in the United States he directed other engine room crew members to use a hose the so-called magic pipe to bypass the OWS on the ship and discharge oil-contaminated bilge waters and sludges into the ocean.

By pleading guilty, Vafeas admitted that he made fraudulent entries in the ship's Oil Record Book, a document that must be properly maintained pursuant to various water-pollution laws.

Vafeas also admitted in court that he orchestrated a number of acts to conceal the unlawful discharges of pollutants from the United States Coast Guard. Vafeas specifically admitted that he destroyed a "sounding notebook" that contained waste tank measurements; that he ordered crew members to hide the magic pipe, as well as paint-chipped and oil-stained valves; and that he directed crew members to throw a magic-pipe adaptor overboard into the waters of the Port of Long Beach.

The M/T Georgis Nikolos is owned by Agiosgeorgis Investments E.N.E. and operated by Diamlemos Shipping Corp., both of which are based in Piraeus, Greece. The M/T Georgis Nikolos, a Greek-flagged tanker ship, is approximately 748 feet in length and weighs 40,680 gross tons. Vafeas was been the chief engineer on the vessel from January until June of this year.

Judge Schiavelli is scheduled to sentence Vafeas on October 30. At sentencing, Vafeas faces a statutory maximum penalty of six years in federal prison.

This case is the result of an investigation by the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Office, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division.


Release No. 06-108

Return to the 2006 Press Release Index

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