JFK boat seized by U.S. drug agents

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The 22-foot Star Class sloop allegedly was bought with money from a marijuana smuggling operation

The 22-foot Star Class sloop allegedly was bought with money from a marijuana smuggling operation

Federal drug agents this fall seized a racing sailboat once owned by President John F. Kennedy, alleging its current owner purchased the vessel with proceeds from selling marijuana.

The 22-foot Star Class sloop, Flash II — built in 1930 and currently owned by Gregory Olaf Anderson — constitutes property derived from the sale of narcotics distribution and is subject to government forfeiture, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston in support of a seizure warrant. Special agents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration executed the warrant at Marblehead (Mass.) Trading Co., where the boat had been stored, according to Samantha Martin, spokeswoman for U.S. attorney Michael J. Sullivan.

JFK and his brother Joseph Kennedy purchased the sailboat in 1934, changing its name from Jubilee to Flash II because it was their second Star Class sailboat. In addition to competing in the 1936 Atlantic Coast Championship race, Kennedy piloted Flash II to victory for Harvard in the 1938 Macmillan Cup in Annapolis, Md. JFK sold the boat in 1942, just before shipping out to the Pacific theater during World War II, where he was skipper of the infamous PT-109.

Martin explains that the action by federal authorities is against the boat rather than Anderson, who reportedly was last living in Florida. Federal agents learned Anderson was involved in drug trafficking and had used drug money in 1996 to buy the boat, according to the affidavit.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA allege that a cooperating witness provided information concerning a large-scale marijuana trafficking operation in Massachusetts. The witness, unidentified in court documents, told investigators large amounts of marijuana were brought from Arizona and Texas to Massachusetts for distribution as recently as 2001, according to Martin.

Sullivan has alleged that during the mid-1990s Anderson gave the cooperating witness and a second person $12,000 to $15,000 to help cover the purchase price and materials to repair the boat. It was further alleged that the second person, possibly a dentist or a doctor, invested a similar amount of money in the boat, which they hoped to refurbish and sell for a substantial profit, as much as $1 million to $2 million, based on its historical value.

Anderson previously had shown the boat to a New York auction house and rejected a bid of $800,000, sensing he could get a higher price, according to the DEA affidavit. The sloop, hull No. 721, likely is authentic, according to DEA agent Gregg Willoughby, who prepared the affidavit.

In a 1997 newspaper interview with the Associated Press, Anderson said he bought the boat at a Florida auction for $19,000. He and boatwright Marshall Chapman then stripped fiberglass from the sloop to expose its original wood hull, and repaired or replaced the spruce mast, rotted keel and pine deck. The boat was restored to near-mint condition.

“She’ll never be wet as long as I have her, but she’ll be ready,” Anderson was quoted as saying.

During 2001 the cooperating witness hired Anderson to transport marijuana from Arizona to Massachusetts, paying him $40,000 to $50,000 per load delivered. Anderson was eventually arrested and sentenced to an 18-month jail term in an Arizona state prison. Upon release Anderson allegedly was preparing to continue his drug smuggling business and move forward with the boat sale, according to the affidavit. Federal agents learned in September that he was planning to move the sailboat from Marblehead; they seized it Oct. 13.

The affidavit further alleges that in exchange for “keeping silent” in prison about the cooperating witness’s role in the smuggling operation, “the cooperating witness would give up his 20-percent share in the Kennedy sailboat as well as give Anderson another $40,000 and pay his legal expenses.”