U.S. marshals, Coast Guard crews nab Hawaii fugitive at sea

Jan. 7—"Mind your own business, " Jackson told a Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter as a state harbors police officer patted him down, untucking his gray polo shirt from his faded bluejeans before ushering him into the back seat of an SUV.

The owner of the Semisub tour boat company, who was free on bond while awaiting trial on federal securities fraud charges, was apprehended at sea Friday by U.S. marshals, two days after trying to flee the island in his vessel.

Curtiss Jackson, 70, who the U.S. Justice Department alleges misspent a good part of the $28 million he raised from investors to fund his semiclear-bottomed boat project, disembarked from the Semisub One in Kewalo Basin Harbor at 9 :10 a.m. with his hands cuffed behind his back and escorted by two armed federal marshals and U.S. Coast Guard members.

"Mind your own business, " Jackson told a Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter as a state harbors police officer patted him down, untucking his gray polo shirt from his faded bluejeans before ushering him into the back seat of an SUV.

When asked about apprehending Jackson, one of the marshals said quietly, "It went pretty well."

Jackson and his wife, Jamey Denise Jackson, are charged with federal securities fraud, conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud, each carrying a maximum 20-year sentence. Federal prosecutors allege the couple took investors' money over the course of a decade, all the while asserting that their prototype vessel with a partially transparent hull for viewing marine life would launch soon.

In the meantime, federal prosecutors said, the Jacksons spent the money on psychics, cannabis, luxury residences, personal credit card bills and a Mercedes-Benz automobile.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Rom Trader released Jackson on a $50, 000 bond in October, requiring that he not leave Oahu or contact anyone involved in the case and that he refrain from using drugs and adhere to a curfew.

Prosecutors sought to detain Jackson before his trial, originally set for later this year, citing concerns that he might flee and that he posed a risk to his wife and investors. They noted he had already violated conditions of his release by asking investors to send him money and assaulting his son.

A bail review hearing for Jackson that was set for Thursday will be rescheduled, according to court records.

Jackson's attorney, Harlan Kimura, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Jamey Jackson's attorney, Bentley C. Adams III, declined to comment.

U.S. Pretrial Services, the agency tasked with supervising federal defendants released before trial, first learned Jackson was planning to take off on his fully fueled boat, stocked with cash and rations, on Wednesday, according to a joint news release Friday afternoon from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Coast Guard.

The agency caught wind of Jackson's plan from people at the Kewalo Basin Harbor, Supervisory Deputy Marshal Scott Hilbert told the Star-Advertiser. Jackson was estimated to have $30, 000 in cash with him, but the exact amount was unconfirmed, Hilbert said.

Federal officials went to the harbor Wednesday to make sure Jackson wouldn't leave.

"However upon arrival officers discovered the slip empty with Jackson and his boat nowhere to be found, " the release said. A federal warrant was issued for his arrest, and he was deemed a fugitive.

The Coast Guard provided the U.S. Marshals Service with a boat and a plane to help with the search, Hilbert said. NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement provided information on where Jackson could have gone, he said, and a "be on the lookout " notice was issued.

Around 2 a.m. Friday, Coast Guard personnel told marshals they had learned Jackson was trying to return to Oahu for "aid from a crew for issues with his boat, " but then Jackson headed back out to sea, the release said.

Marshals and Coast Guard personnel located the Semi ­sub One near Barbers Point around 7 :30 a.m. and arrested Jackson, returning to Kewalo Basin Harbor "without incident, " the release said. He was later detained at the Federal Detention Center.

Hilbert couldn't say how Jackson was able to attempt his escape while on pretrial release and under the watch of the U.S. Pretrial Services.

"He was trusted to be on his own, " he said. "That's between the courts and the attorneys."

Hilbert, now in his 14th year as a federal marshal, said he has never before had to apprehend a fugitive at sea.

Two experienced seamen, Daniel Kalahele and Tony Tong, were contacted late Thursday night to help pilot the Semisub One safely back into the harbor once the Coast Guard and U.S. Marshals boarded the vessel.

"Brother-man took this boat out by himself without really knowing how to drive a boat, not to mention not knowing how to work the GPS, " said Kalahele, a Coast Guard-certified captain, as he stood aboard the Semisub One, which was strewn with junk, tools and pink polo shirts for a non ­existent crew.

Ocean conditions were "very mellow " Thursday night, Kalahele said. Still, Jackson appeared "pretty stressed and pretty fraught, " said Tong, an engineer for Prince Kuhio tours, a scenic cruise company operating out of Kewalo.

Jackson seemed disoriented about his location, the two men said, but he might have been trying to return to the harbor.

"He just couldn't understand where he was in relation to where he needed to be, " Kalahele said. "He was on the other side, around the corner, Barbers Point side ; but he thought he was in front of the South Shore, but he was more toward the west. He was a little lost."

Tong said Jackson "was going in circles out there, didn't know where the hell he was. He couldn't find his way in. He was driving it like he was driving a car."

Only one of the Semisub One's two motors was functioning, making reentering the harbor a challenge.

"I was a little bit nervous, " Kalahele said. "After a long night we finally made it, brah, " he said, looking tired and relieved.

The captain's wheelhouse was well stocked with 400 "classic mellow " American Spirit cigarettes, half a dozen containers of Whole Foods-brand organic cinnamon applesauce, three apple bananas and a mesh bag of clementines.

A toothbrush, disposable razor, black plastic comb and washcloth sat in the bathroom sink.

Jackson had stored more rations on the upper deck, including five Whole Foods bags of bagels, canned goods, store-brand ketchup, jars of tomato sauce and two boxes of creme sandwich cookies, along with 12-packs of Maruchan instant ramen and Cup of Noodles.

Clothes, black trash bags, an electric Presto griddle still in its box and two cans of Yuban coffee were in a messy pile nearby.

Below deck, the Semisub One's curved viewing windows were splotched below the waterline with pinkish-brown and green growths. The water outside, churned up by the boat's return, was a murky sea green.