FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2011
CAMDEN, N.J. – A Camden federal grand jury returned an Indictment, unsealed today, charging a fishing boat owner and crew with conspiring to sink the vessel off the coast of Cape May, N.J., in order to collect a $400,000 insurance payment, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
The Indictment charges the boat’s owner, Scott Tran, 38, of Cherry Hill, N.J.; his right-hand man, Manh Nguyen, 58, of Philadelphia; and crew members Eric James, 39, of Goshen, N.J. and Christopher Martin, 39, of Wildwood, N.J., with one count of conspiring to destroy the boat, the Alexander II. Nguyen, James and Martin are also charged with one count of attempting to destroy the boat.
Tran and Nguyen were arrested this morning by FBI agents, and are expected to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Williams in Camden federal court. James and Martin remain at large.
According to the Indictment:
The four defendants engaged in a scheme to sink the Alexander II so that Tran could collect on an insurance policy with State National Insurance Company. In July 2009, Tran hired Henry “Mike” Anholt as the captain of the Alexander II. Tran and Nguyen then solicited Anholt to sink the Alexander II on the high seas in return for payments to him and his crew.
Anholt then recruited a crew, including James and Martin, to help him sink the boat.
On August 2, 2009, the Alexander II left Cape May, N.J. Although the Alexander II had little fuel, ice, food, and other supplies for a lengthy fishing trip, the ship’s log was falsified to read that more than 50 fish, weighing a total of approximately 3,000 pounds, had been caught.
Once the Alexander II reached a point approximately 86 miles southeast of Cape May, the captain and his crew worked together in an unsuccessful attempt to sink it. After filling it with seawater, they sent a distress signal to the U.S. Coast Guard and then abandoned ship together in a life raft.
The U.S. Coast Guard soon found the Alexander II and rescued the captain and crew, finding no fish aboard the boat or in the hold. The captain and at least one crew member gave false statements to the Coast Guard regarding the incident.
After the U.S. Coast Guard returned the captain and crew to Wildwood, N.J., Nguyen, on behalf of Tran, discussed with the captain and crew what happened during the attempted sinking, giving them cash payments.
Tran then submitted a claim to his insurance broker in order to collect $400,000, the limit of the insurance policy. After the claim was denied, Tran filed a lawsuit in the New Jersey Superior Court in Camden County, seeking damages of $400,000, including damage to the Alexander II and loss of use of the Alexander II.
Each of the two counts in the Indictment carries the a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the amount of loss caused by the offenses.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of FBI, Atlantic City Resident Agency, Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, and investigators with the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor, for the investigation leading to the Indictment.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Wiener of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.
The charges and allegations contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.