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Press Release

Boat Owner Sentenced to a Year in Federal Prison for Conducting Illegal Charter Operations on Chicago Waterways

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois

CHICAGO — A boat owner has been sentenced to a year in federal prison for conducting illegal charter operations on Chicago waterways.

CHRISTOPHER MIKE GARBOWSKI used a 40-foot powerboat known as “Sea Hawk” and “Anchorman” to conduct illegal commercial charter operations on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, including an area in downtown Chicago known by boaters as “the Playpen.”  Garbowski from 2017 to 2019 charged money to charter the boat to groups of passengers, such as bachelorette parties, even though he lacked the proper boating credentials and the U.S. Coast Guard had not inspected and certified his vessel.

The Coast Guard notified Garbowski about the federal regulations on multiple occasions, including at Monroe Harbor in Chicago on Aug. 19, 2017, when Coast Guard personnel boarded the boat moments before Garbowski was set to begin a five-hour charter for eight female passengers.  As the women were walking down the dock to board the boat, Garbowski called one of them on her cell phone and told her to lie to Coast Guard personnel by pretending they were friends with Garbowski.  On multiple occasions, Garbowski both verbally and in writing falsely denied to Coast Guard officials that he was operating a commercial charter service.

Garbowski, also known as “Christopher Michael Garbowski” and “Michael Gunnman,” 37, of Sterling Heights, Mich., pleaded guilty earlier this year to a felony charge of violating an order of the Captain of the Port.  U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin on Tuesday imposed the year-and-a-day sentence after a hearing in federal court in Chicago.

The sentence was announced by Morris Pasqual, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Neal R. Marzloff, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Central Field Office.  The Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police provided valuable assistance.  The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Chapman.

“The Coast Guard regulations are designed to ensure the safety of passengers, crew members, and other vessels and individuals in the waterways,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Pasqual.  “Our office will continue to hold accountable those who knowingly violate maritime laws and regulations.”

“Mr. Garbowski’s actions demonstrated consistent disregard for Coast Guard authority and federal regulations concerning passenger vessel safety, putting his unsuspecting, and paying, customers at risk,” said SAC Marzloff.

Updated May 31, 2023

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