Two Mission Beach men plead guilty to deliberately sinking boat
by NEAL PUTNAM
Published - 02/20/17 - 01:00 PM | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Commander was found adrift near Dana Point and only partially submerged. / PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT
The Commander was found adrift near Dana Point and only partially submerged. / PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT
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Two Mission Beach businessmen have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sink a 57-foot boat used for charter sport-fishing trips in order to collect insurance money.

Christopher Alan Switzer, 39, of La Jolla, and Mark D. Gillette, 37, of San Diego, will be sentenced March 6 by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Anello.

They face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, though a lesser sentence is expected. Restitution is expected.

Both men will be required to reimburse the U.S. Coast Guard for $15,000 for the price of launching a rescue helicopter and other costs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Their vessel, the Commander, was homeported in Mission Bay and was headed out to sea on Oct. 11, 2016, when it was intentionally sunk for the insurance money, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Switzer and Gillette admitted they destroyed plastic PVC piping in the ship’s engine room that caused sea water to flood into it. They also pumped sea water onto the vessel and punctured its bulkhead.

They called the Coast Guard for help. A Point Harbor Patrol rescue fireboat later found them atop the partially submerged ship. Both men gave a series of false statements to officials to cover up that the boat was intentionally sunk.

They told authorities the Commander suffered a power failure and did not know why it was flooding. The next day, the Commander was found adrift near Dana Point and only partially submerged.

A commercial salvage company towed the boat to San Diego Bay, and investigators uncovered the deliberately torn pipes in the engine room.

Both men remain free on their own recognizance.
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