A Michigan man has been arrested on federal criminal charges for allegedly conducting illegal charter boat operations on Chicago waterways.
Christopher Mike Garbowski used a 40′ powerboat to conduct illegal commercial charter operations on Chicago waterways, including Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The boat went by various names, including Anchorman, Sea Hawk, and Manaje III.
Garbowski charged money to charter the boat to various groups of passengers, such as bachelorette parties and family celebrations. He conducted the charter operations during the 2017 and 2018 boating seasons even though the vessel had not been inspected and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, as required by federal regulations, the complaint states. Garbowski also captained the charters even though he lacked the proper Coast Guard credentials to do so, the charges allege.
Garbowski, 33, is charged with one count of violating an order of the captain of the port. He was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond.
The complaint was announced by John R. Lausch Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Neal R. Marzloff, special agent-in-charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Central Region; and Jerry Costello, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Chapman.
“The safety of the boating public is a top priority for the Coast Guard,” special agent-in-charge Marzloff said. “Illegal charters pose a safety risk to passengers but also impact the livelihood of licensed mariners that abide by the rules. The Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), in coordination with our partners, is committed to investigating those who knowingly violate maritime laws and regulations.”
According to the complaint, Garbowski advertised his charter business on websites and apps such as Get My Boat and Boatbound. The Coast Guard notified him concerning the federal regulations on multiple occasions, including at Monroe Harbor in Chicago on Aug. 19, 2017, when Coast Guard personnel boarded the boat moments before Garbowski was set to begin a five-hour charter for eight female passengers who booked the Sea Hawk for $2,400, the complaint states. As the women were walking down the dock to board the boat, Garbowski called one of them on her cell phone and told her to lie to Coast Guard personnel by pretending they were all friends with Garbowski, the complaint states.
The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The charge in the complaint is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. sentencing guidelines.