Two men have appeared in court in San Diego, USA, charged with deliberately trying to sink a fishing boat in order to fraudulently collect the insurance payout
Two men face up to ten years in jail and a fine of $250,000 after pleading guilty to deliberately sinking a fishing boat to collect the insurance.
39-year-old Christopher Switzer and Mark Gillette, 37, are charged with conspiring to destroy their own vessel in order to fraudulently collect an insurance payout.
They will also have to reimburse the $15,000 cost to the US Coast Guard, which launched a helicopter to rescue the two men.
A court in San Diego heard that Switzer and Gillette had taken out the 57-foot charter fishing boat, Commander on 11 October 2016, around five-and-a-half miles off San Mateo.
According to the Times of San Diego, Special Assistant US Attorney, Ari D. Fitzwater said the pair had intentionally planned to sink the Commander and submit a claim to their insurance company.
Both Switzer and Gillette admitted to destroying plastic PVC piping in the engine room to cause the boat to flood.
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They also pumped sea water onboard and punctured the bulkhead.
When the Commander started to sink, the men contacted the US Coast Guard to ask for help.
A helicopter was launched, and as it was dark, they were asked to light a flare.
They were eventually located by the Dana Point Harbor Patrol fire boat, standing on top of the cabin of the sinking boat.
Because their was so much debris in the water, the pair had to swim to the fire boat before being pulled out.
They were then taken to Dana Point Harbor Patrol and checked over by paramedics.
Switzer and Gillette later told officers that they had experienced unknown engine problems and they couldn’t find the source of the flooding.
Commander only partially sank, and the vessel was found drifting the next day.
A commercial salvage company used pumps and air bags to float the boat before towing it back to San Diego.
Experts told the US Coast Guard that the damage to Commander appeared to be intentional, and an investigation was launched.
As part of their plea agreement, Switzer and Gillette acknowledged that their actions subjected themselves and emergency responders to the risk of serious injury or death.
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