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Press Release

Camden County, N.J., Man Sentenced To 46 Months In Prison For Conspiring To Sink Boat For Insurance Payment

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

CAMDEN, N.J. – A Camden County, N.J., man was sentenced today to 46 months in prison for organizing a plot to sink his fishing boat off the coast of Cape May, N.J., in August 2009 to collect $400,000 from an insurance company, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Scott Tran, 40, of Cherry Hill, N.J., previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb to an Indictment charging him with conspiracy to destroy a vessel on the high seas. Judge Bumb imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Tran, Manh Nguyen, 60, of Philadelphia, and others engaged in a scheme to sink the Alexander II so that Tran could collect on an insurance policy with State National Insurance Co. In July 2009, Tran hired a captain for the ship, whom Tran and Nguyen then solicited to sink the Alexander II in return for payment. The captain then recruited a crew to help him sink the boat.

On Aug. 2, 2009, the Alexander II left Cape May. 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 approximately 3,000 pounds, had been caught. Once the Alexander II reached a point 86 miles southeast of Cape May, the captain and his crew worked together in an unsuccessful attempt to sink it. After filling parts of the boat with seawater, they sent a distress signal to the U.S. Coast Guard and abandoned ship together in a life raft.

Tran admitted that he communicated by email with the captain during the voyage, telling him that he should sink the boat. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued the captain and crew. The Coast Guard found no fish aboard the boat or in the hold. Tran admitted that he gave Nguyen several hundred dollars in cash to give to the captain and each member of the crew for their participation in the attempted sinking. Nguyen admitted to making those payments. Tran admitted that he offered to pay the captain $10,000 and each crew member $2,000 to sink the boat.

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 New Jersey Superior Court in Camden County, seeking damages of $400,000, including damage to the Alexander II and loss of use of the boat.

In addition to the prison term, Tran was sentenced to three years of supervised release, fined $75,000 and ordered to pay $280,000 in restitution. Nguyen was sentenced June 1, 2012, to two years in prison. Two crew members, Erik James, 41, of Cape May Courthouse, and Christopher Martin, 41, of Cape May County, both were previously sentenced 30 months in prison.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of FBI, Atlantic City Resident Agency, Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford; and investigators with the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor, for the investigation leading to today’s sentence. He also thanked the Philadelphia and Cape May office of the U.S. Coast Guard, Investigative Division, for its assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Wiener of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.


Defense counsel: Earl Kauffman Esq. of Philadelphia

Updated March 18, 2015