A cruise ship employee was arrested this week on a federal charge tied to the investigation of a sex assault reported at sea en route to Seward, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.
Authorities said Neeraj Bhatt lied to FBI and U.S. Coast Guard investigators when they questioned him Monday about allegations that he had sexually assaulted a passenger onboard the ship, according to the complaint. He is charged with making a false statement to a government agency.
Officials from the federal agencies responded to a cruise ship that had just arrived in Seward on Monday and interviewed multiple people about an alleged sexual assault that occurred several days earlier, according to a sworn affidavit written by an FBI agent and attached to the charges. Bhatt was working as a stateroom attendant, the agent wrote.
The ship was not identified in court documents. The Norwegian Jewel was the only cruise ship to arrive in Seward that morning, according to a harbor schedule. Norwegian Cruse Lines did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
During an interview with investigators, a woman reported that Bhatt had entered her cabin several times, touched her inappropriately and did not want to leave, the affidavit said. It was against the cruise ship’s policy for an employee to be alone with a guest in a cabin with the door closed, it said.
Federal investigators reviewed security footage from the ship that confirmed the woman’s accounts of Bhatt entering her room and closing the door several times, the affidavit said. But when investigators confronted Bhatt during interviews aboard the ship and later at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, he lied about the number of times he entered the cabin and said he used a door stop to keep the door open, the document said.
Bhatt admitted he lied after investigators showed him the footage, according to the affidavit.
The cruise company terminated Bhatt’s employment and arranged for him to be escorted Monday by a security company to the airport to fly home to India, according to a motion filed Thursday by a federal prosecutor. He was arrested by the FBI before flying out of Alaska, the motion said.
Attorneys involved in the case could not immediately be reached Friday.