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Captain admits scuttling his boat

MAY 17 - A Washington state man who was indicted by a federal grand jury last September pleaded guilty Monday to charges that he deliberately sank his fishing boat and then lied to authorities about it.

Ahmet “Turk” Artuner, who is 53 and of Ferndale, said he sank his 73-foot fishing vessel, named Junior, three miles southwest of Oxnard, Calif., in March 2003, Washington’s Ventura County Star newspaper reported. As part of the guilty plea Artuner agreed to pay $132,000 to Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigative Division. He faces up to 10 years in prison, the report says.

The sinking of Junior set off Artuner’s EPIRB and the Coast Guard launched a search-and-rescue mission, according to the report. At the scene investigators found an oil slick and debris, including a PFD bearing the name of the boat. When authorities contacted Artuner he said he was in Washington state at the time of the sinking and that a man had been living on board the boat. The Coast Guard then continued to search unnecessarily, it says, for a man that never existed.

Federal authorities are expected to reveal what they believe was Artuner’s motive for scuttling his boat at his Oct. 4 sentencing, the news report says. It has been speculated that Artuner sank Junior because he had unpaid dock fees or because of the ship’s squidding permit, which cannot be transferred unless an owner can show the vessel has been destroyed.

— Jason Fell