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Coast Guard busts 8 illegal charters in Florida during President’s Day weekend

Sweet Melissa III motor yacht.
Sweet Melissa III motor yacht. (U.S. Coast Guard.)

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The U.S. Coast Guard halted eight illegal charters in Florida over the holiday weekend, including in Miami Beach.

According to a news release from the agency, Coast Guard Station Miami Beach and St. Petersburg law enforcement crews boarded multiple boats to seek out illegal charters.

Authorities said two of the boat operators violated Captain of the Port orders, which is a federal offense and carries a maximum penalty of over $95,000.

One of those operators was on the Sweet Melissa III motor yacht near Miami Beach, while the other was in St. Petersburg.

“There’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back after your voyage is terminated,” said Jesus Porrata, chief of investigations division, Coast Guard Sector Miami. “The Coast Guard along with state and local law enforcement agencies will continue to actively pursue and enforce all applicable laws to ensure your time on the water is safe and enjoyable.”

Coast Guard officials urge those who are seeking to book a charter boat to ask to see the captain’s Merchant Mariner Credential.

“For larger charter boats or those with more than six passengers, ask to see a Coast Guard issued Certificate of Inspection,” the news release stated. “If the operator cannot produce appropriate credentials, passengers should not get on the boat.”

Owners and operators of illegal passenger boats can face more than $60,000 in penalties.

About the Author:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.