August 28, 2003
Guilty pleas in port security case
Ebmeier faces up to 11 years incarceration and a $500,000 fine. Cetoute and Victor face up to 6 years incarceration and a $250,000 fine.
The announcement says that defendant Edward Ebmeier entered guilty pleas to Count I and Count II of the Indictment, which counts charge Ebmeier with knowingly and willfully violating the provisions of Title 33, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 128, regulating passenger terminal security, by failing to comply with the requirements contained in the Terminal Security Plan, in violation of Title 33, United States Code, Section 1232, and knowingly and willfully impeding, impairing and obstructing the lawful functions of the United States Coast Guard by using and causing a scheme to conceal, falsify and cover up material facts concerning matters within the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001.
As set forth in the Indictment, between January 2001 and March 23, 2003, the defendants did knowingly and willfully, impede, impair and obstruct the lawful functions of the United States Coast Guard, an agency of the government of the United States in the oversight, regulation and enforcement of matters within the authority and jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard by knowingly and willfully concealing, falsifying and covering up a material fact concerning matters within the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard,: to wit that Port Services International, by and through Edward Ebmeier and others knowingly and willfully used unlicensed and/or fraudulently licensed individuals as security guards at Port Everglades Florida in violation of the requirements of the Terminal Security Plan required by Title 33, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 128, in violation of Title 33, United States Code, Section 1232 and Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1001 and 2.
This prosecution arose from a law enforcement operation wherein undercover agents purchased fraudulent training certificates which were to be used to obtain Class D security guard licenses from the State of Florida to enable individuals to be employed by Port Services International as security guards for the cruise ships at Port Everglades Florida. The investigation established that during the relevant period set forth in the Indictment Edward Ebmeier was the President and Registered Agent of Port Services International, Inc. (PSI), a private for profit security company which conducted business at Port Everglades, Broward County, Florida (hereinafter Port Everglades). PSI provided security for several cruise lines located at Port Everglades pursuant to the Terminal Security Plans required by U.S. Coast Guard Regulations (33 C.F.R. 128.200).
The U.S. Coast Guard Regulations provides, in pertinent part, for the establishment and implementation of a Terminal Security Plan which provides for the safety and security of persons and property in the terminal and aboard each passenger vessel; designates by name a Terminal Security Officer; and provides for the evaluation of all security personnel of the terminal, before hiring, to determine suitability for employment. The purpose of the TSP is to provide for the safety and security of persons and property in the terminals and aboard each cruise ship; to prevent or deter the carriage of prohibited weapons, incendiaries or explosives aboard each cruise ship; and to prevent or deter unauthorized access to the cruise ships and restricted areas of the terminals .
Eleven (11) cruise lines entered into Terminal Security Plans which named Edward Ebmeier, President of Port Services International, Inc. (PSI) as the Terminal Security Officer. Under the terms of the Terminal Security Plans, Mr. Ebmeier was required to conduct pre-employment evaluations on all terminal security personnel as a condition of hiring and ensure that the following requirements are met: (1) Verification of a valid Florida issued "D" license; (2) background checks of previous employment and (3) criminal checks by the Broward Sheriff Department as part of the Port Identification process.
On March 8, 2001, Department of Licensing investigators conducted inspections at Port Everglades, FL. During the inspection, Department of Licensing investigators discovered that 10 employees of PSI either were working with an expired class "D" security license or they did not have an agency identification card in their possession.
On March 23, 2003, an inspection of PSI's operations at Port Everglades was conducted by the Broward Sheriff's Office, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, United States Coast Guard, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Licensing Division. At the time of the inspection 12 PSI employees were found to be working without a valid class D security guard license, 8 PSI employees were found to have fraudulently acquired security guard licenses.
A review of documents seized at the time of the defendants arrest revealed an additional 12 PSI employees were found to be working at PSI without valid class D security guard licenses, blank pre-signed applications for Port Identification Badges that had been signed by Ebmeier, and several instances where employment applications were dated after employees had started working for PSI. On many occasions these employees had been paid prior to the submission of the employment applications, and the employees were working without even the most rudimetary background checks having been conducted by Mr. Ebmeier.
Witness interviews established that Ebmeier employed and permitted to be employed individuals to perform security duties on a temporary day work basis, without verifying that they possessed a valid security license or conducting employment or background checks as required by the TSP, that day workers would be supplied by Ebmeier or his delegates with PSI uniform shirts and port access passes for the day on which they worked, that the day workers would be paid outside of the normal payroll process and that the day workers were used to supplement the PSI work force to comply with Coast Guard requirements regarding security staffing. Witness interviews further established that the code "Elvis is in the building" was used by Ebmeier and others at his instruction to alert PSI security personnel that the U.S. Coast Guard or other monitoring agency was on the port premises.
Defendants Cetoute and Victor plead guilty to Count I of the indictment. Almaida Cetoute was an employee of PSI. As an employee of PSI Almaida Cetoute would, at the request of Edward Ebmeier, provide individuals to work as security guards at Port Evergaldes as day workers, that is, these individuals would be employed by PSI without any background, licensing or employment check on a day to day as needed basis. These individuals would be provided with a PSI uniform shirt and a Port Security Access ID for the day or days on which they worked. Almaida Cetoute also arranged with Fritz Victor for individuals who were employed by or seeking employment with PSI to obtain fraudulent documents to support their applications for Class D security guard licenses, which were required under the Terminal Security Plan. The evidence showed that undercover purchases of fraudulent documents, which were to be used to obtain Class D security licenses, were made from Almaida Cetoute. These fraudulent documents were provided by Fritz Victor to Almaida Cetoute. Witness interviews showed that several employees at PSI had fraudulently obtained their Class D licenses through Almaida Cetoute and Fritz Victor.
Mr. Jimenez commended the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Broward Sheriff's office and the United States Coast Guard in this matter. The This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Walleisa.