SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging Carlos J. Izquierdo-Carrero with obstruction of justice and two counts of failure to obey Captain of the Port Orders related to a boat charter business Izquierdo-Carrero operated from La Parguera in Lajas, PR, to Caracoles Bay, without the appropriate licenses to do so, announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) and Coast Guard Investigative Section (CGIS) were in charge of the investigation.
According to the Indictment, on October 28, 2019, USCG Prevention Department personnel contacted Izquierdo-Carrero, owner of Pura Vida Boat Trips, and advised him of the requirements to obtain the necessary licensing to commercially operate vessels with passengers for hire. Izquierdo-Carrero utilized various vessels as a part of Pura Vida Boat Trips, a commercial charter business, including the Bertram, the Pura Vida, and the Kaira.
On or about April 17, 2021, the USCG determined that the operation of the Bertram, the Pura Vida, and the Kaira represented a significant unsafe boating condition and environmental threat to the port and navigable waterways of the United States given Izquierdo-Carrero’s failure to comply with the applicable licensing laws and regulations for commercial charters. Izquierdo-Carrero was served with Captain of the Port Orders for his three vessels and formally warned regarding his non-compliance with the applicable regulatory and licensing requirements. Despite the warnings, Izquierdo-Carrero continued to commercially operate those three vessels, among others, without complying with the USCG Captain of the Port Orders and applicable regulations related to the safe operation of commercial charters.
On May 7, 2021, during an undercover operation, Izquierdo-Carrero, aided and abetted by others, operated commercial charters from La Parguera to Caracoles Bay, including on the Pura Vida, the Kaira, and the Mirta Iris, in violation of the USCG Captain of the Port Orders and applicable licensing regulations. Further, Izquierdo-Carrero obstructed the inspection of the Mirta Iris by instructing undercover USCG agents to lie and misrepresent that they were friends of Izquierdo-Carrero and not paying charter passengers.
“Unfortunately, Pura Vida Boat Trips is not the only company illegally operating in Puerto Rico beach and tourist areas,” said US Attorney Muldrow. “This prosecution should serve as a warning to other boat operators who are not complying with important safety and other regulations designed to protect local citizens and tourists.”
“Illegal passenger operations represent a threat to the safety of life at sea and the environment, those who continue this practice may be facing stiff fines and possible prosecution,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Sector San Juan commander. “The Coast Guard is committed to identifying and eradicating this illegal practice. In doing so, our Sector San Juan Prevention Department will continue to work closely with our Coast Guard Investigative Service, and our partners in the U.S. Department of Justice and local and federal law enforcement to protect the people of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and our visitors from this threat.”
“Illegal charter operations pose a significant threat to our communities, they can also become a pathway to other illegal activity and must be dealt with aggressively by the maritime law enforcement community,” said Zinnia James, Coast Guard Investigative Service Southeast Region Special Agent in Charge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney María L. Montañez-Concepción of the Financial Fraud and Public Corruption Section is in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted, the defendant faces up to 5 years in prison for obstruction of justice and up to 6 years in prison for failure to obey the Captain of the Port Orders, plus the imposition of a fine and supervised release.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.