Texas Game Wardens recover over $275,000 of stolen watercraft in crime ring

A Texas Game Wardens investigation helped bust an organized crime ring and recover over $275,000 worth of stolen watercraft and other vehicles, according to a news release from the department.

A Texas Game Wardens investigation helped bust an organized crime ring and recover over $275k worth of stolen watercraft and other vehicles.

A Texas Game Wardens investigation helped bust an organized crime ring and recover over $275k worth of stolen watercraft and other vehicles.

Whitney Bishop

A Texas Game Wardens investigation helped bust an organized crime ring and recover over $275,000 worth of stolen watercraft and other vehicles, according to a news release from the department. The investigation seized 27 stolen vessels and trailers, as well as filed charges and arrested three suspects for theft and engaging in organized crime. 

The two-year, multi-agency effort began when Sergeant Game Warden Jonathan Griffin of the Marine Theft Investigation Unit received a tip from the La Marque Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Office regarding an individual titling numerous Jet Skis skis in their name at very low purchase prices.  

Eventually, a Florida county tax office notified Griffin that the suspect and a second individual were also titling a number of personal watercraft in Florida in the same manner, according to the release. 

Over the following months, the Marine Theft Investigation Unit worked to trace the Jet Skis as they were bought and sold by the suspects. The investigators discovered that the Jet Skis being titled were actually stolen in Texas and then sold across multiple Gulf states with false titles and identification numbers. During the investigation, a third suspect was identified as a participant in the scheme.

While the charges are pending, the agencies are working to locate and recover more stolen Jet Skis and boats that may have been sold using the same technique. The ones recovered have been given back to the rightful owners, according to the Texas Game Wardens

Following the investigation, Griffin was nominated for the Investigator of the Year Award by the International Association of Marine Investigators.

"Considering that this is an international award, I am really humbled to have been nominated," Griffin stated in the release. "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 district attorney's office for prosecution."

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