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Man charged for releasing cruise ship's anchor | News

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Man charged for releasing cruise ship's anchor
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Tampa, Florida -- The FBI has charged a California man for releasing the anchor on a moving cruise ship carrying more than 1,000 people. 

Officials say 44-year-old Rick Ehlert was a passenger on Holland America's 1,260-passenger Ryndam early Saturday when he allegedly entered a restricted area and let the ship's rear anchor loose.

Read: Rick Ehlert's criminal complaint (PDF)

The vessel was en route from Costa Maya, Mexico to Tampa at the time of the incident.

Ehlert was arrested Sunday at 2:28 pm at the Port of Tampa, and booked into the Hillsborough County Jail before being turned over to federal authorities.

He is facing two federal charges which combined carry a maximum penalty of 40-years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Holland America says the 56,000-ton ship was not damaged however officials in the criminal complaint say Ehlert's alleged actions could have sunk the Ryndam.

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Authorities say Ehlert was identified using surveillance footage and has admitted to releasing the anchor, as well as throwing a life buoy overboard. He reportedly told the FBI he was drunk at the time.

Based in Tampa for the winter, the Ryndam is sailing a series of alternating, seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries that depart every Sunday. The Western Caribbean itinerary includes stops in Key West, Fla.; Belize City, Belize; Mahogany Bay, Honduras; and Costa Maya, Mexico.

Holland America has released the following statement:

As this matter involves an ongoing criminal proceeding, Holland America Line will not provide any information beyond what has been included in the Criminal Complaint signed by FBI Special Agent John Manning. We can confirm that, to the best of our knowledge, the information in the Complaint accurately reflects what happened. As also noted in the Complaint, the Ryndam was unharmed by this incident. Finally, we want to extend our sincere appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, Florida, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their immediate response to this incident and the very professional manner in which the investigation has been conducted.

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