Texas cruise captain charged with using dead woman's identity

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas:

(HOUSTON) — A ship captain for Majestic Ventures, Majestic Dinner Cruises and Majestic Yacht Charters dinner cruise lines has been arrested on charges of using a stolen identity for more than 20 years, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Cynthia Lyerla, 52, of League City, allegedly used the identity of Christina White to obtain driver’s licenses, passports, mariner licenses and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) documentation allowing her to enter secure port areas. Without a mariner license and TSA documentation, Lyerla would not be allowed to captain the ships for the dinner cruise companies.

Lyerla was charged in a four-count indictment returned under seal on March 8 and unsealed Thursday. She was taken into custody Thursday morning.

The indictment alleges Lyerla used the identity of Christina White, who passed away in 1965. She is charged with aggravated identity theft, false statements in a passport application, unlawful use and possession of a mariner license and unlawful use by false personation of a transportation worker identification credential. 

According to the indictment, Cynthia Lynn Knox was born in 1964, later married Harold Lyerla and took his name. The marriage ended when Harold Lyerla was murdered in 1988 in Lompoc, Calif. Although another individual was convicted for that crime, Lyerla’s fingerprints were taken by the local police in the course of the investigation. 

Since that time, Lyerla has allegedly used the identity of Christina White to obtain driver’s licenses, passports, mariner’s licenses and TSA documentation allowing her access into secure port areas. In applying for those documents, she not only used the name Christina White, but also provided Christina White’s date of birth, place of birth, Social Security number and parents’ names, according to the charges.

The indictment alleges her true identity was confirmed after her fingerprints were taken in connection with a mariner license application.

If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

The charges were the result of an investigation conducted by the Department of State-Diplomatic Security Service and U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Goldman is prosecuting the case.

By Professional Mariner Staff