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Game Wardens Bust Organized Crime Ring

Dozens of vessels recovered in two-year, multi-agency effort.

A run-of-the-mill investigation into a series of boat title discrepancies concluded with multiple felony charges against three people suspected of running an interstate theft ring and the recovery of more than $275,000 worth of stolen watercraft and other vehicles.

The case began in 2019, when TPWD’s La Marque law enforcement office received a tip about a person titling numerous personal watercraft in their name at very low purchase prices. The investigation led to a Florida county tax office, where they found that the suspect and a second person were titling watercraft in the same manner.

Led by Sgt. Jonathan Griffin, the Game Warden Marine Theft Investigation Unit worked for two years to trace personal watercraft bought and sold by the suspects. Investigators discovered that the vessels had been stolen in Texas and then sold in multiple Gulf Coast states with false titles and identification numbers. The unit’s work identified a third suspect who had participated in the scheme.

“While the charges are pending, we are working to locate and recover more stolen jet skis and boats that may have been sold using the same scheme,” Griffin says. “It’s been satisfying to help get this property back to the rightful owners.”

Griffin’s leadership of the investigation into the crime ring prompted a nomination for Investigator of the Year by the International Association of Marine Investigators.

“I am really humbled to have been nominated,” Griffin says. “I am very grateful to the Galveston County Auto Crimes Task Force and the other agencies across Texas, Alabama and Florida who assisted with the resources necessary to build a strong case to hand over to the Galveston County district attorney’s office for prosecution.”


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