THREE INDIVIDUALS AND TWO CORPORATIONS CHARGED IN AN OIL POLLUTION CONSPIRACY
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner, Commander, 7th Coast Guard District, and John Sall, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, announced the superseding indictment of defendants Hugo Pena, 45, of Miami, HP Maritime Consultants, Inc., of Miami, Ronald Ramon, 45, of Honduras, and Northon Eraso, 66, of Colombia, in an oil pollution conspiracy. In a related but separate criminal information filed on June 28, 2010, the United States Attorney also charged Coastal Maritime Shipping, LLC, a Fort Lauderdale-based company, with two counts of failure to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book, in violation of 33 U.S.C. § 1908(a).
More specifically, the superseding indictment charges Ramon, Eraso, HP Maritime Consultant, Inc., and Pena with one count of conspiring to fail to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; it charges Ramon and Eraso with twenty-five counts of failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book, in violation of 33 U.S.C. § 1908(a); it charges Pena and HP Maritime Consultant, Inc. with one count of failing to conduct a complete survey of the ISLAND EXPRESS I, in violation of 33 U.S.C. § 1908(a); and it charges Pena and HP Maritime Consultant, Inc. with one count of false official statement, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of five years’ imprisonment for the count of conspiracy, six years’ imprisonment for each count of failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book, and five years’ imprisonment for the count of false official statement.
According to the allegations in the superseding indictment, Coastal Maritime Shipping, LLC owned the ISLAND EXPRESS I. Defendant Ronald Ramon was the captain of the ship and was the highest ranking member of the ship’s crew. Defendant Northon Eraso was the Chief Engineer and was the highest ranking member of the ship’s engineering staff. Defendant Hugo Pena and his marine services company, Coastal Maritime Shipping, LLC, were the ship’s classification surveyors, who had falsely certified that the ship’s pollution prevention systems were adequate only weeks before the inspection.
According to the superseding indictment, the cargo vessel ISLAND EXPRESS I, a 155-foot cargo freighter, did not maintain functioning oil pollution prevention equipment, was fitted with pumps and hoses capable of discharging oily waste directly into the ocean, and kept logs that failed to account for how the ship discharged its oil-contaminated water.
The related criminal information charges Coastal Shipping Holding, LLC with two counts of failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book, in violation of 33 U.S.C. § 1908(a). If convicted of this charge, Coastal can be sentenced to a $500,000 fine for each count.
Mr. Ferrer commended investigative efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Services. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Raich.
An indictment/information is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.