ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — A federal jury found a St. Petersburg yacht charter broker guilty of obstructing the U.S. Coast Guard during investigations of overcrowding charters.
Patrick Dines, 74, was placed under investigation by USCG after two passengers drowned while on a charter cruse. The USCG was investigating an incident involving Dines’ 71-foot yacht, the Jaguar, which had been booked by students to cruise off of Pass-a-Grille beach in March 2017.
During the course of reporting on the deaths by WFLA, it was revealed that the Jaguar had been warned about illegal charters in Tampa Bay area waters. As previously covered, a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office report from March 14, 2017, said a group of 15 Chinese college students on spring break had booked the Jaguar through Florida Yacht Charters.
The investigation proceeded for more than a year, and emails obtained by WFLA found that the Coast Guard had received warnings about the Jaguar dating back to 2015 and 2016.
Dines was president of a yacht charter brokerage company in St. Pete called FYC Yachts. Dating back to August 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida reports Dines had been under investigation for violating boating safety laws regarding overcrowded charter cruises.
On March 14, 2017, Dines’ yacht set sail from St. Pete and anchored in Pass-a-Grille Channel for passengers to swim. Strong currents swept simmers out, and two were unable to return to the boat, according to an announcement from USAO, leading to calls for rescue by passengers and crew.
The USAO said upon returning to the marina in St. Pete, Dines “approached the remaining passengers and encouraged one of them to pretend to be a crew member in order to mislead Coast Guard investigators about the number of passengers onboard.”
He also “attempted to have the remaining passengers” sign a contract which would have absolved him of responsibility, but passengers saw “the contract had the wrong yacht name, time of voyage, and number of passengers.” Those instructions, according to USAO, were “consistent” with previous attempts at misleading USCG boardings.
As a result of the investigation, and trial, Dines was found guilty. The indictment carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. Sentencing has not yet occurred.