Tarpon Springs dolphin cruise turns back to dock after groping incidents

Pinellas County

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) – You could call her “the grandmother groper.”

A Port Richey woman found herself tossed off a Sponge-O-Rama sightseeing cruise after passengers and the captain say she groped them.

The Friday afternoon cruise promises visitors dolphin, manatees, and historic sites. But the passengers on board got a whole lot more than they bargained for.

Passengers aboard the “Spongeorama” cruise’s boat smiled as they returned to the dock after their Monday afternoon adventure.

But on Friday afternoon, things were quite different. 

“Lady came on the boat. She was being, very, very unruly. Started touching people and you just can’t do that. You can’t sexually harass people,” said Captain Angelo, who didn’t give his last name.

He is talking about Lisa Matteson.

Xanthi Zembillas, who sells cruise tickets, heard on the radio, the boat was returning to the dock.

“The lady, Lisa, apparently groped his wife once.  And then she did it again” Zembillas said.

Captain Angelo tried to intervene. 

“She got up and she groped the husband. So after she groped the husband, she turns around and tells the husband, that you need to take your family and go back to where you came from,” Zembillas said.

It’s a phrase we’ve heard the president use, prompting fierce debate. The passengers involved are from Saudi Arabia.

“He didn’t appreciate what she said.  And I said I wouldn’t appreciate something like that myself. And especially with 2 young children” Zembillas said.

“She came into the wheelhouse. She touched me one time and I told her, keep your hands to yourself. Touched a young lady on the boat on the bow there and called her inside the wheelhouse and told her ‘listen, if you don’t stop, we’re turning around’ and she did it one more time and we turned the boat around and she was very unruly the whole way back” Captain Angelo said.

Back at the dock, Tarpon Springs police officers were waiting with handcuffs.

Lisa Matteson didn’t come to the door at her Port Richey home.

This nature cruise proved to be a little too natural.

“That’s the first time that ever happened here. Hopefully, the last,” Captain Angelo said.

The witness in the ticket booth said the passenger wouldn’t have pressed charges, except for the “go back to the country you came from” line.

Matteson is a regular at the sponge dock. She is out of jail on bond.

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