By Morgan Linn
A New York man has been sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay $6,416.50 to the U.S. Coast Guard for intentionally sinking a boat in the Black Rock Canal.
Paul Van Voorhees, dock master of the Buffalo Yacht Club, was convicted of obstruction of waterways by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Roemer, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo, N.Y.
As dock master of the yacht club, Van Voorhees was responsible for “maintenance of the buildings, grounds and marina,” the press release said.
On Nov. 5, 2015, he and another employee sank a damaged 13-foot aluminum towboat that had been floating in front of the yacht club. They used a tugboat to tow the boat into the canal and submerge it.
“To remove a craft like that from the water would have involved getting a crane out and lifting the boat out,” said Aaron Mango, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case. “It just appeared to be easier to drag it into the canal and let it go.”
A witness reported the incident to Coast Guard staff, who then tracked the tugboat back to the Buffalo Yacht Club, Mango said.
Van Voorhees initially denied sinking the boat when questioned by the Coast Guard, Mango said. The Coast Guard then retrieved the boat, which would have been a hazard for boaters.
After the boat’s registration confirmed it belonged to the yacht club, they interviewed him a second time. Van Voorhees still denied involvement.
”They went back on a third occasion to interview Van Voorhees and he finally admitted to his conduct,” Mango said. “Although this was a sunken rowboat case, the problem was that Mr. Van Voorhees lied on several occasions about his conduct.”
No one else has been charged for the incident, Mango said.
“The defendant did make a claim in the lead-up to sentencing that it was his employer that had directed him to do this,” Mango said. However, there was no evidence of the employer’s involvement, and Van Voorhees on a separate occasion said he had acted of his own accord.
Justin Ginter, a criminal defense lawyer from Buffalo who represents Van Voorhees did not respond to requests for comment.