Charlevoix Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal Operation of Charter Business

John Joseph Kalbfell, 73, Charlevoix, pleaded guilty this morning in the 90th District Court in Charlevoix to operating a commercial boat charter without a commercial operational endorsement and without a valid Coast Guard certificate of inspection.

Both crimes are misdemeanors carrying a maximum penalty of one year in jail. Judge Angela J. Lasher sentenced Kalbfell to pay fines and costs totaling $1,500 in the case.

Kalbfell was also originally charged with false pretenses $20,000 or more but less than $50,000, a felony charge, for allegedly obtaining a commercial boat slip through the use of false pretenses. This charge was dismissed upon Kalbfell’s payment of $17,820 to the City of Charlevoix for restitution.

This amount represents the difference between the fees for a commercial charter boat slip and a recreational seasonal boat slip at the City of Charlevoix marina.

According to an affidavit filed in the case by the United States Coast Guard, Kalbfell applied for, and received a commercial boat slip from the City of Charlevoix in 2017 despite the fact that he did not possess a captain’s license, a commercial charter endorsement and had registered his boat with the state as a pleasure boat and not commercial.

Kalbfell conducted no commercial charters in 2017, only 3 to 5 in 2018, 8 to 10 in 2019 and 20 to 25 in 2020, according to his logbook and the marina harbormaster.

“It appears that this individual held himself out as a charter business, while not having a captain’s license and not paying the fees nor holding the licenses that a charter company would have to pay, to obtain a lower rental rate for his 41’ boat,” Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof said. “This resolution gets the City of Charlevoix the amount of money they lost as a result of these actions and holds the offender criminally responsible.”

“The case was thoroughly investigated by the United States Coast Guard and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The taxpayers of Charlevoix would not have gotten their money back without the hard work of these investigators. This resolution was approved by the city and I am glad we were able to recoup these funds without the necessity and risk of a trial.”

In an action separate from the criminal prosecution, Kalbfell agreed to surrender his commercial slip at the city marina.

Kalbfell’s wife, Janet, is a member of the City of Charlevoix City Council. Though she recused herself on all votes regarding the commercial slip, the law enforcement affidavit filed in the case indicates that it was not disclosed that she was both an owner of the boat and the limited liability company that operated the charter.

About Allen Telgenhof

Allen Telgenhof is the Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney; he has been an attorney since 1989 and a high school baseball coach since 2005. Graduated from Clio High School, Michigan State University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Proud father of Ty, Ally, Will and Lou and husband to Erin.
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