News and Press Releases

Miami Man Sentenced for Obstruction of Justice and False Statements for Certifying Ships Safe for Sea

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2012

A Miami-based ship surveyor was sentenced today for lying to the Coast Guard and for falsely certifying the safety of ships at sea, announced Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice, Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner, Commander, 7th Coast Guard District, and Jonathan Sall, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service.

Alejandro Gonzalez, 60, of Miami-Dade County, was sentenced to 21 months’ incarceration and one year of supervised release.

On May 24, 2012, a federal jury found Gonzalez guilty of lying to a Coast Guard inspector and a federal agent about the drydocking of the M/V Cala Galdana, a 68-meter cargo vessel, in San Juan, Puerto Rico in April of 2009 and December 2009. Gonzalez repeatedly claimed the vessel was drydocked in Cartegena, Colombia in March of 2006, while evidence at the trial proved conclusively that the vessel was never in Colombia during 2006.

Coast Guard inspectors in San Juan discovered the vessel taking on water in August of 2008 and requested the last drydocking of the vessel. Gonzalez created a false story about the vessel being drydocked in Colombia in 2006 when he knew it was not.

Gonzalez was also convicted of falsifying documents for the M/V Cosette, a 92-meter cargo vessel. As the surveyor on behalf of Bolivia, Gonzalez certified the ship as safe for sea while the vessel was docked in Fort Pierce, Florida in November 2009. When the vessel shortly thereafter arrived in New York City harbor, Coast Guard inspectors discovered exhaust and fuel pouring into the engine room, endangering the crew and the ship. Gonzalez was convicted of making a false statement and obstructing a Coast Guard Port State Control examination.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Surveyors are responsible for the safety of the ships they inspect. When they fail to do their jobs properly, lives are put at risk. Today’s sentence should remind those few surveyors who need reminding of the great responsibility that they carry and the consequences of their actions.”

“Mr. Gonzalez is being held accountable today for making false statements and certifications to Coast Guard inspectors whose job it is to ensure the safety of ships at sea,” said Assistant Attorney General Moreno. “Ship surveyors serve a crucial public safety role, and when they abdicate their responsibility they put mariners in danger and our nation's waters at risk of contamination. Mr. Gonzalez's prosecution should send a message that we will not tolerate this type of egregious behavior.”

The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Raich and Trial Attorney Kenneth Nelson, of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

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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.

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