Photo by Orange County Sheriff’s Department photo
Had it sunk, investigators likely would not have discovered the intentional destruction.
Christopher Switzer and Mark Gillette on October 11 took their charter sport-fishing vessel, a 57-foot craft named the Commander, to sea from Mission Bay. They later made an emergency call to the Coast Guard, saying their boat was sinking. A helicopter went looking for them. A Dana Point Harbor Patrol rescue/fire boat found the two atop the partially submerged vessel.
Yesterday (February 1) they admitted it was an insurance scam. They had planned to sink the vessel and collect payments. To pull off the scheme, they had destroyed the PVC piping in the engine room, causing sea water to flood in. They pumped sea water onto the craft and punctured the bulkhead to let the water spread throughout the boat.
The craft was towed back to San Diego Bay, where investigators figured out the attempted scam. Switzer and Gillette initially lied to officials about the incident.
They face a maximum ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. They also have to pay more than $15,000 to the Coast Guard for the expense of the rescue operation.