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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Shouldn’t Have Run From the Coast Guard

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) - A Mexican national who rammed his boat into a Coast Guard vessel after it caught him fishing in U.S. waters pleaded guilty to "failing to heave to a Coast Guard vessel," federal prosecutors said.

Pedro Morales-Hidalgo, 43, faces up to 5 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. "On Oct. 11, 2012, a crew aboard a U.S. Coast Guard vessel observed a Mexican fishing vessel within United States territorial waters, approximately .4 nautical miles north of the Mexican border and 4.5 nautical miles offshore," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

"Morales-Hidalgo was the captain of the vessel.

"As the Coast Guard approached, the fishing vessel sped off toward the Mexican border.

"The Coast Guard pursued the fishing vessel and used a loud hailer to give commands in English and Spanish ordering Morales-Hidalgo to stop his vessel.

"The Coast Guard also used lights, sirens, hand signals and flash-bang grenades to direct Morales-Hidalgo to stop, but he refused.

"During the pursuit, Morales-Hidalgo made several 'corkscrew' maneuvers in an attempt to escape and used his vessel to ram the Coast Guard in an attempt to disable its outboard engines.

"The Coast Guard was finally able to stop the fishing vessel by pulling its fuel line.

"Morales-Hidalgo admitted he heard the directives to stop but failed to do so because he had been fishing illegally in the United States and knew that his boat and catch would be seized as a result. "

His sentencing is set for March 27.

Though a bond has been set for him, Morales-Hidalgo is in custody, prosecutors said.

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