Aided by testimony from two undercover park rangers, the Ventura County district attorney's office has filed 26 criminal charges against divers who allegedly pillaged a wrecked steamship last month in the waters of the Channel Islands National Park.
Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury also announced this week that a lawsuit has been filed against Truth Aquatics Inc. of Santa Barbara and its president, Roy Hauser, owner of the Vision, the boat used in the incident.
The boat's captain and 15 of the divers, most of whom are members of the California Wreck Divers Club, are accused of using hacksaws and hammers on Oct. 4 to steal pieces of the wrecked Winfield Scott, a wooden-hulled steamship that sank 134 years ago off Anacapa Island.
All are being charged with removing archeological artifacts from a designated ecological reserve, a violation under the state Administrative Code. Ten members of the diving team are additionally charged with willfully injuring, defacing or destroying an object of archeological or historical interest, a separate violation under the state Penal Code.