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Charlevoix Man Pleads Guilty to Illegally Operating Boat Charter Business

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A Charlevoix man has pleaded guilty to operating a commercial boat charter without a commercial operational endorsement or a valid Coast Guard certificate of inspection, according to Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof.

John Kalbfell, 73, of Charlevoix, faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and will have to pay $1,500 in fines and costs.

Kalbfell was originally charged with false pretenses, $20,000 or more but less than $50,000, a felony charge, for allegedly getting a commercial boat slip through the use of false pretenses, according to Telgenhof. However, the charge was dismissed after Kalbfell paid $17,820 to the City of Charlevoix for restitution.

The amount, says Telgenhof in a release Tuesday, 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 from the United States Coast Guard, Kalbfell applied and received a commercial boat slip from the city in 2017 despite him not having a captain’s license or a commercial charter endorsement. He had also registered his boat with the state as a pleasure boat and not commercial.

Kalbfell didn’t conduct commercial charters in 2017, but conducted three to five in 2018, eight to ten in 2019 and 20 to 25 in 2020, according to his logbook and the marina harbormaster. He agreed to turn in his commercial slip at the city marina separate from the criminal prosecution, said Telgenhof.

Kalbfell’s wife, Janet, is a member of the City of Charlevoix City Council and, according to Telgenhof, although she “rescued herself on all votes regarding the commercial slip,” the affidavit filed in the case shows that it was not mentioned that she was an owner of the boat and the limited liability company that operated the charter.