A Refreshing Story: the Tax-Dodging Yacht, the Illegals, and the Coast Guard

By David North on July 29, 2010

Once in a while it is nice to see the wealthy and pampered – like tax-dodging, yacht-owning citizens and their illegal immigrant sidekicks – zapped just like the sweltering peasants at the Arizona border.

That's what happened on Long Island Sound to – I kid you not – the Rich family, their 63-foot private vessel, and two illegal aliens. It was all in the New York Times on July 27.

The story revolves around a 28-year-old woman named Gaea Rich, a fashion designer for Ralph Lauren, whose advertisements always feature stunning, highly-prosperous-looking WASP models.

Ms. Rich, her new boyfriend, David Quinn, and 13 others on July 4th were steaming into Oyster Bay on the North Shore of Long Island when a Nassau County police boat, complete with Coast Guard and Customs officers, stopped the yacht, which was flying a foreign flag. The Coast Guard has unlimited powers to stop such vessels in U.S. waters.

The officers "seemed to be unfamiliar with the flag" according to a quote by Ms. Rich in the Times, wanted to see the cruising license of her uncle who owned the boat, and wanted to inspect the immigration papers of everyone on board.

Soon they found that Mr. Quinn was an illegal alien from Ireland of several years standing, and that a catering worker from Guatemala was also illegal. In what I regard as a revealing sidelight, we were told a lot about Mr. Quinn, but no one could remember the name of the lady from Guatemala.

The two illegals were removed from the ship and both are due to be deported.

There's more to the story.

One of the reasons that the officers may not have recognized the flag is because it is from a small and obscure Caribbean state, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (the only nation in the world with a name that sounds like that of a rock band). That flag, and I hope the reader has a color monitor, looks like this.

And why was an American-owned vessel flying the flag of St. Vincent and the Grenadines? The Times carried this explanation: "It is frustrating for those with foreign flags, said the manager of a luxury marina in the Hamptons, who insisted on anonymity to avoid offending any of his clients. But, he added, 'they really can't complain because the reason they're foreign flagged is to avoid paying taxes.'"

According to the report, Mr. Quinn had arrived in the States on a visitor's visa in 2003, joined several siblings who had become U.S. citizens and never, apparently, did anything about his immigration status, though a sibling could have filed papers on his behalf.

How did Mr. Quinn meet Ms. Rich? It is a quintessential story of the wealthy part of Manhattan, an assertive, well-to-do young woman, and a presumably handsome Irishman. This is how the Times describes it:

The romance began in late March when Ms. Rich spotted Mr. Quinn, 30, tending his horse and carriage on Central Park South [presumably at the famed Plaza Hotel], near her office. She returned a few days later with a friend, and rented his carriage for a spin around the park. "We were the last ride of the day, and invited him to come up to a bar after he'd finished stabling his horse," she recalled. "It was a romantic night."

There's only a handful of places in urban America where you can find the luxury of horse-drawn carriages for hire.

The article reported that a Franciscan priest intervened in the case, and managed to secure what sounds like a volunteer departure for Mr. Quinn, giving him 45 days to wind up his affairs prior to departure. No such break was engineered from the hapless, nameless lady from Guatemala.

The reporter of this fetching story, Kirk Semple, probably is well aware of the lifestyle of prosperous and prominent New Yorkers. Semple is not a common name. When I was a minor cog in the LBJ Administration, I knew a then-young reporter for the Times, who was later an editor there, Robert Semple. I suspect they are related.

If there is a broader lesson to this story, it is this: presidents, secretaries, and commissioners come and go but there remain substantial bits and pieces of the government that continue to enforce the immigration law, like the Coast Guard officer in this case, and like the rank-and-file agents of the Border Patrol. Thank goodness for that.