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Commercial fisherman accused of scuttling his boat

OCT. 3 — A Washington state man was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles for deliberately sinking his 73-foot fishing boat and then lying to authorities about it.

Ahmet Artuner, who is 56 and from Ferndale, Wash., is charged with deliberately sinking a vessel, polluting and making false statements that led to an unnecessary Coast Guard search-and-rescue mission, news reports say.

The Coast Guard responded to an EPIRB in March 2003 about three miles southwest of Oxnard, Calif. Debris found in the area displayed the name of the vessel, Junior.

When Coast Guard authorities contacted Artuner, he told them he was unaware of the scuttling, and that a man was living aboard the boat as a caretaker, reports say. The Coast Guard then launched a search for the man, which it later called unnecessary, the indictment alleges, because no one was actually on board.

After an investigation, authorities determined Artuner had willfully scuttled the boat and attempted to cover it up, reports say. Although prosecutors say the motive is unclear, they reportedly speculate Artuner did it because he had unpaid dock fees or because of the ship’s squidding permit, which cannot be transferred unless the owner can show their vessel has been destroyed.

If convicted, Artuner would face a maximum possible sentence of 26 years in federal prison, reports say.

— Jason Fell