Employee pleads guilty to stealing $7M from marine cargo company

An employee responsible for overseeing the finances of a U.S. Gulf Coast shipping company specializing in heavy-lift cargo pleaded guilty to embezzling over $7 million and making false statements on a federal income tax return.

Deepak “Jack” Jagtiani, who had been the comptroller of Metairie, Louisiana-based Dan-Gulf Shipping, admitted guilt in federal court Tuesday to both counts of an indictment filed against him in December.

Jagtiani, 60, admitted he used his authority to pay himself excessive salaries and benefits from 2009 through early 2019, defrauding Dan-Gulf and its business partners of over $7 million, according to federal prosecutors.

Jagtiani also claimed business losses for tax years 2014 to 2017 through a fake catering business, which he used to avoid paying $1.2 million in federal income taxes.

Dan-Gulf Shipping, which had specialized in project cargo and commodities in the Caribbean market, announced in July that it was shutting down after 27 years in business.

Jagtiani faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release for the embezzlement charge and a maximum of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the tax fraud charge. Sentencing is scheduled for November.

While the stolen money was not “a drop in the bucket,” according to company founder and President Niels Busse, it was not the main reason for the company having to close its doors.

“In fact, we had a good year in 2019, and 2020 was shaping up the same,” Busse told FreightWaves. “But after COVID-19, we’ve been faced more or less with no cargo in the Caribbean down to the North Coast of South America, and prices are not compensable. We were a small company, and others aren’t going to survive. Right now it’s a bloodbath down there.”

He noted that even though the company was able to quickly secure funds through the Paycheck Protection Program for approximately $230,000, it was able to extend salaries for his 11 employees for only a few extra months.

Busse added that he continues to be active in the Colombia market “with firm sailings” from the U.S. Gulf every three weeks while “monitoring the situation from the sideline.”

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