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Press Release

Cruise ship passenger sentenced for attempting to strangle intimate partner while at sea

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

GALVESTON, Texas – A 45-year-0ld resident of Watford City, North Dakota, has been ordered to prison for his conviction of assault within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

Hector Fernando Blanco pleaded guilty Jan. 17, 2020.  

Today, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown ordered Blanco to serve a total of 36 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by two years of supervised release.  

At the time of his plea, Blanco admitted he attempted to strangle and suffocate a woman while aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Galveston. He acknowledged he had been dating and intimate with the victim.

“No excuse can justify Hector Blanco’s violent actions that turned a dream vacation into a dreadful nightmare for his victim,” said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI. “I am extremely proud of FBI special agents in the Texas City Resident Agency and our victim specialists who provided compassionate support to the brave survivor who reported this crime.”

On Nov. 18, 2018, Blanco intentionally assaulted the victim in his cabin aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. He placed his hand and then a bath towel over her mouth, then twisted a towel around her neck and dragged her on the floor of the cabin. Blanco tripped and she was able to run out of the cabin and report the incident to security personnel aboard the ship.

The assault occurred aboard the Liberty of the Seas, which at the time was a foreign vessel registered in the Bahamas. At the time of the assault, the cruise ship was located approximately 45 miles from Galveston in the Gulf of Mexico.

Blanco was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Cusick is prosecuting the case.

Updated February 10, 2021

Violent Crime