29 September – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has indicted a Ferndale, Washington man on a series of federal charges related to his alleged sinking of his 73-foot fishing boat off the coast of Central California and his subsequent attempt to cover up the crime.
Ahmet Artuner, a 56-year-old man who also uses the name “Turk,” was named in a five-count indictment returned late Wednesday that accuses him of destroying a vessel. The indictment also alleges that the scuttled ship discharged a harmful quantity of oil and discharged a pollutant. Additionally, Artuner was charged with causing the United States Coast Guard to launch a rescue mission when no help was needed and with making false statements to Coast Guard officials.
Artuner was the owner of the fishing vessel Junior, which was used to fish for squid off the California coast. The indictment alleges that Artuner willfully caused the destruction of the Junior on March 29, 2003 approximately three miles southwest of Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. As a result of the sinking of the boat, oil and pollution (trash and debris) were discharged into the ocean, allegedly constituting two violations of the Clean Water Act.
After the vessel was sunk, the Coast Guard detected an emergency radio beacon coming from the Junior. When the Coast Guard responded to the location, it found nothing other than some floating debris, which allowed investigators to determine the name of the ship. When the Coast Guard contacted Artuner as the owner of the vessel, he denied any knowledge of the scuttling and said that a man had been living on the Junior as a caretaker. With the information that someone may have been on the boat, the Coast Guard launched a search and rescue mission, an operation that the indictment alleges was unnecessary because no one was on the vessel.
Artuner was charged with making false statements to the Coast Guard for allegedly telling investigators on the day of the sinking during a telephone call that someone may have been on the Junior and that he was in Washington state when in fact he was in California.
Artuner will be summoned to appear for an arraignment in United States District Court in Los Angeles next month.
The charges contained in an indictment are only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
If convicted of all five counts in the indictment, Artuner faces a maximum possible sentence of 26 years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division.