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Drunk Cruise Passenger Who Dropped Anchor in the Middle of the Caribbean Pleads Guilty & Faces Up To 20 Years in Jail

The U.S. District Court in Tampa did not find Rick Ehlert's stunt on a Holland America Line last November amusing. The California man will plead guilty and now faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for releasing the ship's 18-ton stern anchor in the middle of the Caribbean Sea as the 1,950-passenger vessel traveled from Costa Maya, Mexico to Tampa, Florida.

Federal prosecutors in Tampa said Friday that 45-year-old Ehlert pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to damage a maritime facility.  Authorities say a surveillance video shows Ehlert entering a restricted area and dropping the 18-ton stern anchor of the MS Ryndam on Nov. 27, 2010.

“The deployment mechanism is quite complex and required tools, including a wrench, to complete. The process took Ehlert approximately 12 minutes,” the plea agreement notes.

When confronted by authorities, Ehlert told them he was drunk at the time. He also said the cruise ship's anchor system was similar to the system on his own 50-foot boat.

Investigators say the Holland America ship avoided damage because the anchor didn't hit the deep sea floor.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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