River Pilot Pleads Guilty
Jim Letten, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, announced that TEAL MURDOCH GRUE, a river pilot and member of the New Orleans Baton Rouge Steamship Pilot's Association ("NOBRA") pled guilty to a Superseding Bill of Information charging him with making false material statements to the United States and misuse of a Federal Pilot's License.
GRUE admitted he filed applications with attachments to the Regional Examination Center for the United States Coast Guard in New Orleans, La., in September, 1999 and again in March, 2000, which contained false material statements and entries regarding his personal and marine history with the United States Coast Guard in order to obtain a First Class Pilot's License. GRUE then utilized the First Class Pilot's License he unlawfully obtained from the United States Coast Guard in order to successfully apply for admission to NOBRA and thereby obtain a commission as a river pilot from the State of Louisiana in May, 2000.
GRUE was elected to membership in NOBRA despite disclosing drug use and his DWI conviction on his NOBRA application, but lied about same to the United States Coast Guard. Obtaining a First Class Pilot's License from the United States Coast Guard is a prerequisite to gaining membership in NOBRA and commissioning as a river pilot.
By pleading guilty, GRUE acknowledged he had a conviction for driving while intoxicated in St. Tammany Parish and that positive drug test results were obtained from him during the course of his employment prior to making his application to the Coast Guard for a First Class Pilot's License, but falsely responded to questions on the Coast Guard applications which required the disclosure of drug use and driving under the influence of alcohol. GRUE also admitted he submitted a letter of recommendation from his employer to the United States Coast Guard in connection with his application which included a false statement that he had taken several drug tests, all of which proved negative. He also submitted false observer trip sheets reflecting experience on the Mississippi River for trips as an observer which he could not have taken because at the time and on the dates he noted in his application, he was working for his employer on a twenty-four hour/7days on-7days off shift.
United States Attorney Jim Letten noted GRUE'S plea of guilty constitutes a first step in addressing a very serious public safety concern, that is, that individuals piloting vessels on the Mississippi River meet the qualifications and the requirements established by the United States Coast Guard which are designed to ensure the public's safety and the economic vitality of commerce on the river. The investigation is ongoing.
The case was prosecuted by the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division, Fred P. Harper, Jr. and Assistant United States Attorney James R. Mann, with the assistance of Special Agent Todd "Tony" Adams of the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service.