An investigation into a series of boat title discrepancies ended with multiple felony charges against three individuals suspected of running an interstate theft ring, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced Monday.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, throughout the course of the investigation, over $275,000 worth of stolen watercraft and other vehicles were recovered.
Sergeant Game Warden Jonathan Griffin of the Marine Theft Investigation Unit facilitated an impressive two-year investigation into the organized crime ring, and he was subsequently nominated 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 said 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.
A Florida county tax office later notified the Sergeant that the suspect and a second individual were also titling jet skis in Florida in the same manner, officials said.
According to officials, during the following months, the Marine Theft Investigation Unit worked to trace the jet skis that were bought and sold by the suspects.
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Officials said investigators later learned that the jet skis were actually stolen throughout Texas and then sold across multiple gulf states with false titles and identification numbers.
Investigators then identified a third suspect who had participated in the activity, officials said.
“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 now being handled by the Galveston County District Attorney’s office.