The World War II-era U.S. Army Air Force Crash Boat, known as the P-520, that has gone from one port to another in Maryland for the past two years, was seized by the U.S. Marshals Service at Port Covington Marina in Baltimore on Tuesday
The boat has been operating in Maryland since 2020 when it was brought to the state by Lewis Palmer, president of the Louisville Naval Museum.
According to court documents, the Maritime Pastoral Training Foundation (MPTF) of Paducah, Ky., had a maritime lien against the vessel in the amount of $92,923.65 – this was for “necessaires” MPTF paid to Louisville Naval Museum (LNM) with the understanding the P-520 would be delivered to Kentucky.
“To date, MPTF has not any payment for the “necessaires” it provided to the vessel,” according to court documents.
And the boat never went to Kentucky – it arrived in Annapolis in December 2020.
Since 2019, Palmer has gone from Kentucky to California to New Jersey to four home ports in Maryland and in his wake, he’s left a trail of people who feel like they’ve been deceived and taken advantage of – some have lost money, some have lost time and one person was injured aboard the submarine while volunteering for LNM, although the group never owned it.
Although LNM referred to itself as a museum, the group has never had a brick and mortar location.
Kentucky, California and the P-520
In 2020, Palmer was given a U.S. Army Air Force Crash boat, known as the P-520 – it came from a family in California.
Larry Newland, a founder and former board president of the Morro Bay Maritime Museum in California, regrets that he was the one who made Palmer aware of the existence of the P-520 and provided him the contact information for the owner of the boat.
But Newland said Palmer had been in California as part of MPTF and that’s who was interested in the P-520.
And then Palmer went back to California on his own – that’s when the boat was turned over to Palmer’s LNM, rather than MPTF.
“That was the big mistake – allowing that to happen,” said Winston Rice, a board member for MPTF.
Rice indicated MPTF had already purchased a different boat that they needed to get from California to Kentucky – they paid to have it shipped but the boat had been damaged just prior to shipping and needed repairs. With the money already paid for shipping, Rice said they came up with the idea for Palmer to get the P-520 shipped instead of the other boat and the P-520 would then be used by both LNM and MPTF.
Rice believes Palmer mislead the donors of the boat to donate the P-520 to LNM rather than MPTF. Keep in mind, Palmer had originally been seen with the people from MPTF.
Not only did he get the boat for free, “he was also given cash and I believe it was in the amount of $10,000 from the family,” said Newland.
Rice said no one from MPTF initially knew Palmer had done this until the boat changed directions.
“Instead of going across Florida, across the Gulf of Mexico, they started to go up north,” Rice said. “I tracked her for a while – I tracked her all the way to Annapolis.”
Rice, who is also a lawyer, said the MPTF paid for the entire transport and they were out of the money paid for the shipping and they lost the P-520.
“While it was in route, we filed a claim to lien with the Coast Guard, which is an encumbrance to the title,” Rice said. “You can’t sell the vessel the way it is.”Notice-of-Claim-of-Lien-Filed-100720
Even before all of this happened with the P-520, trouble was brewing in New Jersey – Palmer was in the midst of that too.
Hackensack and the USS Ling
In 2019, Palmer set his sites on the USS Ling, a former U.S. Navy submarine which was and still remains in a state of disrepair with a substantial portion of its hull sunk into the bottom of the Hackensack River in New Jersey.
The USS Ling is owned by the Submarine Memorial Association, which got the sub directly from the U.S. Navy in 1972.
“The vessel was originally towed up the river, thanks to a dredged channel deep enough to accommodate barge traffic,” stated an article a 2017 article in The New York Times. “But the river has steadily filled in with silt, leaving the submarine mired in the muck. Then came a battering by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, leaving the sub inaccessible and the museum’s future shaky.”
In September 2019, an article in northjersey.com stated, “After reading stories about the USS Ling being vandalized, Palmer, who resides two hours north of Louisville, said he got together with some other individuals to ‘save the submarine and see if we can give it a good home.'”
The Submarine Memorial Association didn’t have the resources to fix all that the Ling needed – in came Palmer and his LNM which convinced a group of volunteers they were going to save the sub.
This volunteer recruitment was done through a Facebook group, created by Louisville Naval Museum, called Save the USS Ling – this group was initially set to public, then private, then paused in September 2022 when someone began questioning where all the money that had been donated to the LNM went – the group can no longer be seen on Facebook.
The group description stated, “This is an exploratory group that will work to first save the USS Ling then preserve the WW2 Balao class submarine. Following hurricane Sandy, the sub fell into disrepair and storm damage. The museum was closed and has never reopened. Vandals went on board and further caused damage and theft of items and now she sits in the river unattended with no one to claim the piece of history. We need all sorts of experts to make this effort a reality. There are numerous things to be done that will require hands on work as well as fund raising and logistics to get things in place.”
Although Hurricane Sandy, which happened in 2012, it was cited by LNM, as the reason for the sub falling into disrepair – the vandalism incident brought more attention to its plight, as well as volunteers that wanted to save the USS Ling.
According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) webpage about scams and safety, under the section about charity and disaster fraud, it states, “Charity fraud schemes seek donations for organizations that do little or no work – instead, the money goes to the fake charity’s creator. While these scams can happen at any time, they are especially prevalent after high-profile disasters. Criminals often use tragedies to exploit you and others who want to help.”
“High profile disasters” is how some might describe the impacts of both Hurricane Sandy and the vandalism on the sub – whether the vandalism actually caused as much damage as has been asserted by some is still questions – but that’s a different story altogether.
The vandalism is what got Palmer’s attention and it was the perfect opportunity for him and his LNM to begin collecting donations of time, money and materials for a vessel they didn’t own, as well as selling items from the submarine.
This is also when Palmer started telling people he had served in the U.S. Army.
A November 2019 article in the Kentucky-based Courier Journal, titled “Veterans want to bring WWII submarine to Louisville as part of proposed naval museum,” stated, “Gatton, an Air Force veteran, has always had an interest in submarines. He and his friend, Lewis Palmer, an Army veteran, are now trying to do everything they can to save the Ling and bring it to Louisville permanently.”
The Courier Journal article also stated, “The Ling was donated in 1972 to the Submarine Memorial Association,” which was true, but it also incorrectly stated, “The Navy still owns the ship and gave Gatton and Lewis permission to work on it.”
The Navy hadn’t own the sub since 1972.
“The Navy donated the ex-USS Ling to the Submarine Memorial Association (SMA) in 1972,” stated Jamie Koehler, spokesperson for Naval Sea Systems Command. “In doing so, the Navy transferred physical and legal ownership of the vessel to the SMA. The Navy has no ownership in the vessel and has not and cannot provide permission to the Louisville Naval Museum on any issues related to ex-USS Ling.”
A senior director of communications for Gannett, which owns the Courier Journal, initially replied to an email but did not respond to further questions about fact checking.
In March 2020, an article in nj.com stated that Palmer had served in the Army for three years.
Palmer also told this this reporter that he’s a veteran of the U.S. Army and that he served three years during Desert Storm, when in actuality he served under two years.
According to information received from the National Archives/National Personnel Records Center, Palmer served from January 31, 1990 to October 1, 1990 (eight months) in the Army National Guard, then from October 2, 1990 to September 27, 1991 (almost 12 months) with the Army Reserve. At the time of discharge, Palmer was a private first class (E-1).
Lying about time served in the military is not a crime.
With all of these news stories, some of which had links to donate, Palmer and LNM got credibility – that helps when it comes to getting volunteers and donations.
Like Prieto, other volunteers saw it as a great opportunity – a new organization would mean money to get the Ling shipshape again.
On August 5, 2020, Palmer emailed Prieto, “It means that the week of August 23rd we will be handed $10,000,000 and at this point, we need to work around anyone dragging their feet to make things happen.”
According to the Prieto, the money never materialized, volunteers paid for parts themselves and were never reimbursed and one volunteer contracted with a company to pump out the USS Ling – that company was never paid back.
“They took us for a ride,” said Joseph Solari of New Jersey.
Solari’s company, Aim Oil Recovery, was contacted by two volunteers for LNM he said.
“We pumped out 20,000 gallons of waste water and oil mixed,” he said. “We went through hell for like three days.”
As for charges, “I went on a dollar a gallon,” he said.
Solari said he’s given back to many nonprofits and he did this time too – of that $20,000 bill, he wrote off $10,000 of it as a donation to LNM.
And then he never got paid for the rest of it.
“I donated $10,000 to the museum not knowing they were taking us for a ride,” said Solari. “We went back and forth with Mark and Lewis.”
He said a volunteer offered to pay him but Solari refused knowing that it wasn’t the volunteer’s fault.
“At the end, we just realized we weren’t going to get paid,” he said.
Volunteers knew this had happened.
“This facade didn’t hold up for long as we volunteers quickly realized that the Louisville Naval Museum had no concrete plans to go about saving the USS Ling and that plans for the Louisville destination had ‘fallen through,'” stated Prieto. “The story about the destination soon changed to Hoboken and then to Annapolis. There was an email from Lewis Palmer to some volunteers stating that $10M dollars were available to help repair the submarine in dry dock if it could first be made ready to tow. Lewis frequently talked about having an agreement with the Caddell Dry Dock facility to repair the Ling and having the tow boats ready to go. All of this was backed up by the aggressive social media campaign to solicit donations via GoFundMe, Patreon, Paypal or by check. Every post suggested that the Ling was just a couple of weeks from being towed away and would soon be getting repaired and donations were needed.”
John Thomsen was the volunteer who was injured.
On July 27, 2022, Thomsen was a awarded at $468,584 through a judgment filed against LNM – Palmer never showed up for court.John-P-Thomsen-CivilCaseJacket-Judgement
On July 24, just three days before the court date that Palmer never showed up for, he started calling his group the Veterans Heritage Foundation – this according to a post on the Facebook page for the P-520.
Bill Friedman, the attorney who represented Thomsen in New Jersey, wasn’t surprised about the name change – he said he had already noticed the website for LNM had been taken down.
As to whether LNM had any insurance that could’ve paid Thomsen, Friedman said, “I never did find out – I never received any discovery.”
In other words, in addition to not showing up for court, Palmer never sent any documents he was supposed to send prior to the court date.
In 2020, things aboard the USS Ling started to go south for Palmer.
“At the end November 2020, all of the volunteers working on the USS Ling under the Louisville Naval Museum had seen enough of their corrupt behavior and decided to sever ties effectively putting an end to all work at the site,” stated Prieto. “With no volunteers, the Louisville Naval Museum could not do work at the site, and in the second half of 2020 it was very rare for anyone of their staff to be present on any given work day. After the volunteers had willingly put in so much time and took so many risks working in a very dangerous and dirty environment, Lewis Palmer went on the attack on social media. He accused us of theft, of blocking progress, lying about the actual state of the submarine. He claimed that the Navy had seized the submarine from the Submarine Memorial Association and that he would have us arrested for trespassing. He took credit for all the work we had done and pushed his narrative about not letting us bad volunteers who are trying to stop progress to continue soliciting donations.”
Where was the Submarine Memorial Association, the real owners of the USS Ling, during this period?
The members of the group, which had originally gotten the submarine in 1972, were now much older and according to one of them, they felt helpless and concerned but they also saw that LNM succeeded in convincing a lot of volunteers to do work on the submarine.
“They were cleaning up the boat and we kind of said well, they have a lot more volunteers than we do,” said Jack Brown, a trustee for the Submarine Memorial Association.
As for the money that was being collected by Louisville Naval Museum, Brown said they knew about it but they didn’t know what to do.
“We knew they were collecting money from the Ling and we weren’t happy about that,” said Brown.
“People were definitely notified,” he said. “Most of us are old, Donna, and we didn’t have the ability do work on the boat and we don’t have money to hire lawyers to go after these people. They have told all kind of lies to the Naval Sea Systems Command. We don’t have the power to be able to do anything. That just puts the Ling in an even worse position to raise money. Nobody would contribute to two groups that were fighting over the boat. That’s why we backed off.”
The Submarine Memorial Association was initially named, along with LNM, in the lawsuit for Thomsen’s injuries but they were cleared – it was only LNM that received the judgment.
Where was the insurance that would’ve paid for Thomsen’s injuries?
“That was one of the things we asked for in the very beginning,” said Brown. “We said show us your insurance coverage. “We kept asking for it and asking for it and asking for it and he (Palmer) never provided anything.”
There is no public record of how much money LNM took in for the USS Ling.
What is known is that money that could’ve gone to the real owners of the submarine went to a group that had no rights to it.
“It’s the definition of grift,” Prieto said.
Prieto, who works in financial services for a private company in the New York City area, kept track of the money and materials being donated and he contacted numerous state and federal authorities with his concerns.
“Though I am not a financial crimes investigator and not trained or authorized to investigate financial crimes, I have received training related to identifying signs of potential financial crimes and am obligated to report on them,” stated Prieto. “A lack of and refusal to produce records, failure to produce evidence of insurance, soliciting for disaster relief donations, using personal accounts to collect donations and the absence of any items purchased by the Louisville Naval Museum for use by the volunteers working on the USS Ling raises red flags suggesting that all their fund raising is going to the benefit Lewis Palmer and other directors instead of the stated mission of the organization.”
Prieto said he reported his concerns, including “providing supporting evidence,” to the attorneys general for Kentucky and New Jersey, as well as the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, the Maryland Secretary of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service.
“Our policy is to neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation,” stated Matthew Reilly, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.
According to Patty Hartman, spokesperson for the FBI in Newark, N.J., “we cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.”
Annapolis and the P-520
While the USS Ling saga was still playing out in New Jersey and and not knowing any of LNM’s history, on New Year’s Day 2021, this reporter happened on an oil spill surrounding the P-520 in the Annapolis harbor.
Authorities were immediately contacted and it resulted in a response from Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP_, Annapolis Fire Department, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
The boat was getting free dock space in Annapolis provided by Annapolis Waterfront and Sailing Center – at the time, Lee Tawney, executive director for the sailing center, said LNM had overstayed their time at the dock.
According to Tawney, he doesn’t remember if LNM provided proof of insurance.
A subsequent radio interview was done by this reporter with Palmer and Ted Yadlowsky. At that time, Yadlowsky was a Maryland-based advisor to LNM – he has since parted ways with the group.
During the interview, Palmer and Yadlowsky shared that they wanted to open their museum in Annapolis or another city in Maryland, and bring both the submarine and the crash boat.
The men blamed an active duty Navy sailor, who was volunteering on the crash boat, for the oil leak.
Palmer said they left Louisville because that city went in a different direction due to the pandemic and the killing of Breonna Taylor.
In the interview with Palmer and Yadlowsky, there were questions asked about Palmer being a veteran, about the USS Ling, about the lien on the P-520, about overstaying their time, as well as proof of insurance for the boat – the men answered the questions.
During the interview, Palmer said he served in the Army for three years during Operation Desert Storm – the interview was recorded and this reporter could not fact check Palmer’s claim during the interview or in the time before it aired on WNAV Radio.
The insurance certificate for the boat, which the men provided, stated the insured was
“Lewis Palmer/Fayette Auto& Diesel Repair/LNM.”
The contact name for the policy and the signature on the bottom of the certificate was Brett McPeak, Palmer’s wife.
Two insurance companies are listed as insurers – one is misspelled, the other, Ace American Insurance Company merged with Chubb – Chubb did not want to comment for this article.
The date on the certificate was 4/20/2020 and it indicated it was valid through 4/15/2021, but another area on it indicated the work on the USS Ling and the P-520 was added to the policy 12/10/2020 and coverage extended through 1/31/2021.
Regardless of the certificate, boats are not required to have insurance in Maryland.
“In Maryland, there is no law, regulation or other rule that requires you to
purchase insurance for your boat or personal watercraft,” according to the Maryland Insurance Administration.
Shortly after the interview with Palmer and Yadlowsky aired on WNAV and was put the station’s social media, Prieto reached out to this reporter with his concerns, as did a former employee of the MPTF.
The boat had already left Annapolis and a story about an oil leak in the Annapolis harbor, which was not the kind of media attention the group was seeking, had already aired.
The coverage area for WNAV, which was where this reporter worked at the time, was Annapolis, Anne Arundel and Queen Anne’s counties – not New Jersey, not California and not Kentucky.
Even though it wasn’t the station’s coverage area, this reporter began to keep notes on the concerns relayed by others about LNM.
While in Baltimore, the group was given free dockage through a donation from MidStates Oil – they stayed in Baltimore from January until early April.
According to an April 2021 article in Chesapeake Bay Magazine, the group then went to Cambridge for additional repairs for damage that happened just after Palmer got the boat.
The article incorrectly stated, “P-520 spent the winter in Annapolis, docked at the Annapolis Sailing Center, under the guardianship of consultant Ted Yadlowsky and other enthusastic (sp) volunteers.”
The boat hadn’t been in Annapolis since January 1, 2021 and the article didn’t mention the oil spill in Annapolis.
But this new article from Chesapeake Bay Magazine gave the LNM additional credibility and it included to a link to donate to the group.
“Of course, the Louisville Naval Museum must fund the maintenance and operation of a 77-year-old war vessel in the meantime, so the museum has started a GoFundMe page to support its upkeep,” stated the article in Chesapeake Bay Magazine.
The GoFundMe link states, “Lewis Palmer is organizing this fundraiser on behalf of Lewis Palmer.”
Once in Cambridge, the group went to Yacht Maintenance where the boat was hauled for an inspection – no repairs were done.
Yacht Maintenance was asked if they requested proof of insurance for the vessel.
George Robinson, owner of Yacht Maintenance, said, “I know we requested it – I’m not quite sure if we got one.”
The group left Yacht Maintenance and got free dockage at a city-owned dock – this is when they decided to open their museum in Cambridge and there was more media attention.
It was July 2021 when Yadlowsky contacted this reporter and said the Navy was taking possession of USS Ling back from the Submarine Memorial Association and transferring ownership to the Louisville Naval Museum.
The Navy was immediately contacted to verify this information.
“It is incorrect that the Navy took possession of ex-USS Ling back from Submarine Memorial Association (SMA),” stated Kathryn Bienfang, spokesperson for Naval Sea Systems Command. “The Navy donated the ex-Ling to SMA in October of 1972. At that time title to the vessel transferred to SMA and SMA became the legal owner. “
Nothing was ever reported by this reporter about the group’s time in Cambridge and Yadlowsky later apologized for providing misinformation – he said the information came from someone else that he believed to be credible.
Meanwhile, there were more problems with the crash boat behind the scenes. It was leaking from a different spot than the one that had caused the issues in Annapolis – specifically in a watertight bulkhead area between the boat’s infirmary and its engine room.
And by that time, at least one volunteer in Cambridge started questioning things.
“I won’t help them again,” said Del Kailianu, an 80-year-old veteran of the Merchant Marines, who volunteered his time on the crash boat in Cambridge.
He was worried about the boat’s safety.
“That boat don’t have an engineer – he calls himself an engineer,” Kailianu said. “It seemed like he really don’t know. They weren’t doing right – we have an oil leak and it goes in the bilge. I said something and nothing was done.”
Kailianu lent his pool pump to the boat – he said he lent the pump, not donated it.
When he realized things were not going as planned or as safely as he wanted, Kailianu stopped volunteering and took his pool pump back.
When he went back to get the pump, Kailianu said there was another person on the boat – he told him he could take his pump but if he wanted to wait for Palmer he could do so.
“I waited like half an hour and he never did show up,” said Kailianu.
He also said he left his number for Palmer should he want to talk to him but Palmer never called.
That pump though was being used to pump out water that was coming into boat – something that apparently wasn’t realized by anyone until they got underway at night.
“It ran into trouble on the water late last week and it had to call Crisfield for help … because of that help and hospitality the crew received, the boat will now be calling Crisfield home,” according to a story on WBOC.
This is also when a former (unnamed) volunteer was accused on the P-520’s Facebook page of removing equipment from the boat.
Kailianu felt used and insulted. He’s upset he didn’t get his t-shirt from the boat back – his time volunteering on the crash boat meant a lot to him.
But this blaming of volunteers was an all-too-familiar scenario as it happened in New Jersey and in Annapolis – it was also about to happen to the city of Cambridge too.
“Lewis Palmer is quick to throw anyone, even an entire community away like a dirty rag once enough of the locals make out what is happening or when a juicy prospect turns up somewhere else,” stated Prieto. “I believe that Lewis Palmer is very experienced in his craft in manipulating honest people to make deals that are ultimately to his personal gain. I can’t be sure about how much money the Louisville Museum is taking in and more importantly how the money is actually being accounted for. From what I have observed between 2020 to 2021 the Louisville Naval Museum has potentially swindled up to $140,000 in cash and in-kind donations across several states, excluding the market value of the P-520.”
In a post on the boat’s Facebook page that was deleted shortly after posting, it was indicated security at the dock was the reason for leaving Cambridge.
“The City of Cambridge does not believe that security was the issue in the least,” stated Cambridge City Manager Tom Carroll. “We had welcomed the P-520 to our community with open arms, providing them a slip for free and placing them prominently right next to the Nathan of Dorchester, our Skipjack. I was disappointed to see the P-520 leave Cambridge, especially since the reason for leaving is not credible.”
According to Carroll, the city is not sure the LNM had insurance for the P-520.
“We did not receive any insurance info,” said Carroll. “We did ask them for it and never got a response.”
With both Kailianu and Yadlowsky leaving in June 2022 as a result of concerns they had, the group likely needed new volunteers and donors.
At that point, the LNM left Louisville, according to Palmer, because the city changed priorities because of the pandemic and shooting of Breonna Taylor. They left Annapolis a day after they were supposed to and with an oil leak in the harbor. And now, they left Cambridge because of security and with a boat that still needed repairs.
“They’re not the best of guys,” said Cambridge Commissioner Chad Malkus. “This is a pattern for them – skipping town.”
Malkus was asked if he was going to warn officials in Crisfield. He was unsure if he would at the time.
The last post on LNM’s Facebook page is dated December 13, 2021 and it states, ” LNM is heading to Mayfield, KY today to help.with (sp) relief efforts from the tornadoes. We have first responders coming from as far away as Virginia. If you’d like to support efforts that will be an immediate response, you can donate to the museum. Your donations are tax deductible and 100% go to supplies and assistance. Thank you.”
It was another disaster.
Crisfield, Fleet Week, a new name and old problems
After moving to Crisfield and with a new name, LNM or the Veterans Heritage Foundation got to start anew.
Or did they?
There was still the lien on the P-520 from the MPTF and there was the $468,584 judgment against LNM in New Jersey – should anyone have gone after the group for money owed, that would have mean a debt collector, or yes, even the U.S. Marshals Service, might look for Palmer, Louisville Naval Museum, its board members and their assets, including the P-520.
That explained another post on the boat’s Facebook page, which stated, “So as we transition to a new chapter in the P-520s life in that of Crisfield MD, Which opened us up to an amazing opportunity where she can be safely docked an monitored 24/7 by staff of Somers Cove marina and local volunteers. We cannot express the outpouring of support from local officials of Crisfield for having us and all they have offered.”
There were other problems.
The Maryland Secretary of State’s office, which a non-profit must register with prior to soliciting donations in or from the state, had no records for LNM or Veterans Heritage Foundation.
“Neither organization is registered with our office to solicit donations in or from the state of Maryland,” stated to Robert Gurley, investigator for Maryland Secretary of State’s office.
Meanwhile. the group has been soliciting donations online and in person from Maryland since November 2020 – it started in Annapolis. From there, to boat and car shows, festivals and stays in Chestertown, Kent Island Yacht Club, Cambridge, St. Michaels, Crisfield and most recently, at Fleet Week in Baltimore – wherever the boat went, the group gave tours and asked for donations.
The P-520 has been used for educating the public about its history and they’ve hosted veterans groups – in other words, the group has done some seemingly good work.
In Crisfield, the boat was getting free dockage at a state-owned marina – the Maryland Department of Natural Resources was asked about it.
“The P-520 is being provided space at Somers Cove Marina with dockage fee waived,” stated Gregg Bortz, DNR’s spokesperson stated in September. “The nonprofit owner is responsible to pay for utilities, but is afforded the space given the boat’s historic value and public interest. We are assured the boat is fully compliant with necessary rules and regulations.”
Who exactly “assured” DNR is unclear – what is known is that it likely wasn’t the Maryland Secretary of State’s office. the volunteers in New Jersey, the Submarine Memorial Association, MPTF or city officials in Cambridge.
There was also that leak issue that Kailianu was worried about and someone else started talking about it.
An August 30 Facebook post (which has since been taken down) about the P-520 from a new volunteer for the group stated, “we have a pretty substantial leak and a few major rot issues that need to be addressed asap.”
Also on August 30, a post on the P-520’s Facebook page soliciting for donations and corporate sponsors discussed taking people on rides to Fleet Week.
Not surprisingly, nothing was mentioned about the “substantial leak” or “major rot issues,” but it did state “the ride is donation based,” which could be considered chartering.
With concerns about public safety and continued fundraising by the group at Fleet Week, this reporter asked the USCG about the “donation based” rides, insurance, the leaky vessel and the agency was told exactly where the leak is.
With no requirement for insurance in Maryland, there’s not much the USCG could do, although there was a subsequent post on the boat’s Facebook page about having to replace expired flares.
That post thanked two local sponsors who “came thru right before we got underway to replace our expired flares.”
With the leak still not fixed, the P-520 was given space in Baltimore for Fleet Week, where the group welcomed visitors, as well as their donations and some did go out on rides – the post on the boat’s Facebook page stated the ride was for winners of a raffle.
And then the group never returned to Crisfield. They stayed in Baltimore.
Palmer had been welcomed with open arms – he’s been given free passes by local, state and federal agencies, including after Prietto contacted multiple agencies with his concerns and after this reporter contacted some of the same agencies, as well as others.
How many, if any, laws, were broken by Palmer and his LNM/Veterans Heritage Foundation is unknown, but there’s no shortage of people who feel they’ve been victimized, including some who did not want to be quoted in this article for fear of retaliation – all have indicated their willingness to speak to law enforcement agencies.
According to sources, much of the Save the USS Ling Facebook group was archived and screenshots of Palmer’s posts have been saved – this was done prior to the Facebook group being paused by Palmer in September 2022.
There is a new Facebook group about the USS Ling, created by Tim Besmer right after Palmer paused his group – the main focus seems to be for those interested in saving the submarine. There has been no fundraising on the group and plenty of posts about Palmer.
While at one time it was mostly just Prieto sounding alarms about Palmer and LNM, there are now many more people questioning how Palmer was allowed to do what he’s done – some have reported their concerns to the FBI, others likely haven’t yet.
While a donation or two might not mean much to some people, all told it could be a lot of money involved.
Why has all of this been allowed to continue since 2019?
Like Bortz from DNR indicated, LNM was “afforded the space given the boat’s historic value and public interest.”
It was about the boat, not about the individual with it. It was also about the kindness of some and wanting to help save history.
People have been hurt, others have lost time and money – some have lost a lot of money, including an organization that wanted to use the P-520 for training and education of young people.
Whether all of this was a “grift” from the beginning, as Prieto indicated, is unknown.
But this isn’t just about Palmer – it’s about how many people believed him including media, volunteers, donors (individuals and companies) and government officials.
Thomsen, who has the $468,584 judgment against LNM, has all sorts of feelings and questions – but no money has been received yet from Palmer or his group.
“I felt vindicated and it felt great but now I have go after the money I’m entitled to,” Thomsen stated. “It may cost me money to go after Lewis from another lawyer out of state even with a judgement in NJ. I would have to try to find out where the boat is now and if I seize it through collections, I do not know the value and condition P520 is in. It will be a matter of time before someone else gets hurt too and Lewis flees again.”
The seizure of the P-520 and what happens now
Ted Yadlowsky was the Maryland-based advisor for LNM, who when he realized things weren’t going as he expected or hoped, he parted ways with the group.
As a resident of Maryland, he also felt a sense of guilt about LNM coming to the state – he kept in touch with people, including those from MPTF, as well as Kathy Tretter, whose family owned the boat when it was in California and who gave the P-520 to Palmer/LNM.
“My involvement with assisting the federal marshals and the court with the seizure of the P-520 began when the Maritime Pastoral Training Foundation and Kathy Tretter, the widow of Jerry Tretter who he and his late father Budd Tretter were the ones responsible restoring the P-520, reached out to me asking for my assistance,” stated Yadlowsky. “Both were concerned over the fate of the vessel and the lies and actions of Louisville Naval Museum. I agreed to help them in assisting the federal marshals service, provided a safe location for the vessel and arranged a knowledgeable captain to pilot the vessel. I feel good about this decision I made to assist the MPTF and Kathy Tretter who I feel fell victim to LNM.”
On Tuesday, when the boat was seized by the U.S. Marshals, employees at Port Covington Marina in Baltimore reportedly contacted Palmer about it. That in turn, led to the vessel being reported by someone not yet identified.
“The Maryland Natural Resources Police responded to the Stoney Creek area regarding a theft complaint,” stated Lauren Moses, public information officer for the agency. ” When officers responded, they were made aware that the United States Marshal’s Office seized the vessel in question. Therefore any further queries related to this case should be referred to them.”
The U.S. Marshals Service has not returned a call for comment.
A message was left for a manager at Port Covington Marina – no response has been received.
The P-520 is now docked in the Stoney Creek area of Pasadena – a court will ultimately decide what will happen to it next.
As for MPTF, who had the lien that led to the seizure, Rice confirmed the U.S. Marshals seized the boat Tuesday.
“It makes me feel a lot better,” Rice said. “There’s stuff missing from the boat but I think we’ll get that back. There has to run an ad in the paper advertising the seizure and asking anyone who has a claim against the boat to file it with the court. Unless no one claims it, it will go up for auction. If someone does claim it, we’ll deal with that and it’ll probably go up to auction afterwards.”
And about that judgment that Thomsen has for his injuries in New Jersey, Rice said, “this has nothing to do with that whatsoever. These are two totally separate transactions – this is clearly an in rem action – it’s not against Louisville Naval, it’s against the boat. “
Rice said MPTF hopes the boat “gets to a proper home” and added, “that will be determined as and when we achieve ownership – we don’t have the means to get it from Baltimore to the Ohio River.”
This reporter reached out to Lewis Palmer for comment. His son, Robby Palmer, answered the phone and said his father was unavailable – he added, “there’s not much I can say right now. I’m going to stay quiet until we can confirm details.”
Shortly thereafter, this reporter received a call from Bob Hay who said he’s a board member for LNM and involved with the P-520.
Hay would not answer questions, including whether he reported the boat stolen after the seizure, but he did say to watch for a press release that will be coming out.
He also said the seizing of the boat was related to “internal in-fighting.”
You can view the court documents related to the seizure of the P-520 below.23-31-Warrant-2
Donna L. Cole is a an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. She’s also a veteran of the U.S. Navy.