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Illegal Charter-Boat Operation Could Land Skipper 10 Years in Prison

The U.S. Coast Guard is cracking down hard on unlicensed charter boat operators.

Spanish Princess
Spanish Princess' listing photo on a popular charter-boat booking app (Infinity Xcursions / HookM)

Published Dec 14, 2022 8:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

A skipper in Seabrook, Texas has been charged with violating a captain of the port order, forging documents and lying to the Coast Guard in connection with an illegal charter-boat operation, and he faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. 

Gordon Johnson, 65, stands accused of operating the powerboat Spanish Princess as a for-hire passenger vessel without a proper license, but has been charged with more serious offenses. 

According to prosecutors, Johnson forged the signature of the seller of the vessel on a Coast Guard bill of sale. He also allegedly operated the vessel for the carriage of passsengers in violation of an order from the Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Houston-Galveston. Further, he allegedly made false statements to Coast Guard officers by telling them he did not have paying passengers on board - and then instructed his passengers to say that they were not paying. 

A 74-foot sportfishing vessel by the name of Spanish Princess is listed for hire on the charter-boat booking app HookM. Its described homeport is in Seabrook, Texas, and the contact person on the listing is a "Captain Gordon." A similar listing on GetMyBoat.com has been taken down. 

"Ensuring mariners are fully qualified to safely operate passenger vessels is of upmost importance to the U.S. Coast Guard," said Brian Jeanfreau, Special Agent in Charge, CGIS Gulf Region.

Johnson was arrested Monday and was scheduled for his first court appearance on Tuesday. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and forfeiture of the Spanish Princess.