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Ship's Chief Engineer Pleads Guilty to Oil Pollution in Alaska Waters

Release Date: 6/14/2002
Contact Information: Luke Hester
(202) 564-7818

Je Yong Lee, Chief Engineer of the motor vessel Soho (M/V Soho) pleaded guilty on May 28 to keeping and presenting a false oil record book, obstructing a federal investigation and telling crew members to lie to a federal grand jury in Anchorage, Alaska.

The M/V Soho is a Panamanian flagged freighter that is owned by a Korean company named Oswego Limited. It carries seafood to Asia. Lee was the vessel’s chief engineer in charge of engine room operations. During a Coast Guard inspection in February, inspectors found hose which they suspected was used to bypass the ship’s oil water separator, a pollution control device that limits the amount of oil a ship discharges into the ocean. Lee admitted in his plea that he knowingly recorded false information in the ship’s oil record book, thus failing to indicate that the bypass hose was used to directly discharge oil-contaminated bilge water and oily sludge into the ocean during the ship’s passage from Japan to Alaska. In addition, Lee admitted that he instructed engine room crew members to lie to a federal grand jury about the use of the bypass hose.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Lee faces a maximum sentence of up to 33-months in prison. The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI with the assistance of EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Anchorage and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.