Intelligence Report: Party boat seized by federal marshals

September 7, 2012 (CHICAGO)

It is a popular Lake Michigan cruise ship called the Kanan that seemingly vanished on Wednesday morning. The four-level lake liner had sailed out of Navy Pier since 2005; it is typically chartered by Chicago-area companies like casinos for big birthday parties and wedding receptions.

There were steady bookings this week-- interrupted, the I-Team has learned, when the boat was seized by federal marshals.

The Kanan bills itself as "Chicago's newest and largest private charter vessel." Convention outings, receptions and corporate events are booked through Christmastime.

Hundreds of people were set to sail from Navy Pier.

Or they were.

Where the Kanan once docked, the I-Team has learned the signage has been removed and the ship is gone.

Left in its place are a few seagulls and the ship's owners, who say they are without a clue.

"The first that we heard was yesterday when the captain called my client and said there was someone at the pier ordering him to get off the boat immediately and advising them that they were going to take the boat," said Kanan Group attorney Kevin McJessy.

They weren't Navy Pier pirates or shipjackers. According to a warrant, they were deputy U.S. marshals executing a court ordered seizure.

The ship was taken by federal authorities amidst a legal battle between the Oak-Brook-based owners of the Kanan and the Texas bank that loaned them money to buy it, part of a $20 million line of credit.

"There's currently three lawsuits and now apparently four between the United Central Bank and the Kanan Group of companies," said McJessy. "We think that they took the action now to gain an upper hand in the litigation and to bring greater pressure to bear on the Kanan Group of companies."

McJessy says that neither he nor the vessel's owners know why the Kanan was taken. All they know is that it isn't at Navy Pier.

The U.S. Marshals Service didn't return the I-Team's calls.

But four-level cruise ships don't just vanish. So the I-Team sent Chopper 7 HD along the shoreline to look for the Kanan.

We found it squirreled away, deep into in an industrial harbor on the Far South Side. Why it would have been brought here as much of a mystery as why it was seized in the first place, according to the ship owner's attorney.

"We were engaged in settlement negotiations with United Central Bank," said McJessy. "We don't know why they would have take the action at this time when it would inconvenience so many essentially innocent parties."

Reservation records are on the ship, so no customers haven't been notified of cancelled trips. Many find out by showing up at Navy Pier.

Even Navy Pier officials tell the I-Team that they didn't know about the seizure by federal marshals until it was underway.

The Kanan companies filed a countersuit against United Central Bank, claiming it breached their loan agreement.

Attorneys for the bank have not responded to the I-Team's questions

For customers of Kanan cruise bookings:

Phone number: (312) 222-0088

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