The two year, multi-agency effort led to high praise, award nominations and safer coastal communities
What started off as a run-of-the-mill investigation into a series of boat title discrepancies, concluded this past summer with multiple felony charges against three individuals suspected of running an interstate theft ring and the recovery of over $275,000 worth of stolen watercraft and other vehicles. Sergeant Game Warden Jonathan Griffin of the Marine Theft Investigation Unit facilitated an impressive two-year investigation into the organized crime ring leading to a nomination for Investigator of the Year Award by the International Association of Marine Investigators.
“Considering that this is an international award I am really humbled to have been nominated,” said Sergeant Griffin. “I am very grateful to the Galveston County Auto Crimes Task Force and the other agencies across Texas, Alabama, and Florida who assisted with the resources necessary to build a strong case to hand over to the district attorney’s office for prosecution.”
Sergeant Griffin further explained that the case began with a tip from the La Marque Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Office regarding an individual titling numerous jet skis in their name at very low purchase prices. Eventually, a Florida county tax office notified the Sergeant that the suspect and a second individual were also titling a number of jet skis in Florida in the same manner.
Over the following months, the Marine Theft Investigation Unit worked to trace the jet skis that were bought and sold by the suspects. The investigators uncovered that the jet skis being titled were actually stolen throughout Texas and then sold across multiple gulf states with false titles and identification numbers. Their work then identified a third suspect who had participated in the activity.
“After recovering 27 stolen vessels and trailers, we filed charges and arrested the three suspects for theft and engaging in organized crime,” said Griffin. “While the charges are pending, we are working to locate and recover more stolen jet skis and boats that may have been sold using the same scheme. It has been satisfying to be able to help get this property back to the rightful owners.”
The case is currently being handled by the Galveston County District Attorney’s office.