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The Gallows - Poachers Hall of Shame Poachers are exposed here. Federal wildlife officers association links to all poacher hotlines in the U.S.


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Old 01-31-2009, 01:37 PM
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Default State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

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Baltimore Sun - January 31 2009

Watermen charged in illegal striped bass sales

State and federal investigators have broken up a black market involving watermen and fish dealers who sold millions of dollars' worth of striped bass, illegally taken from the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River, to shops and restaurants across the country, according to court documents filed in federal court this week.

Four Maryland watermen, one Virginia waterman, two Washington fish dealers and an upscale fish market have been named in criminal complaints, and officials said more are expected. In addition, two St. Mary's County watermen were indicted by a federal grand jury last fall for their part in the poaching scheme, which law enforcement officials in Maryland and Virginia say is the largest ever.

The timing couldn't be worse for Maryland. On Monday, the region's fishing regulatory agency is to meet in Alexandria, Va., and state officials fear that the news could trigger harsh penalties that would cripple the multimillion-dollar commercial fishing industry in the Chesapeake Bay and drive up retail fish prices.

"These were fish pirates," said a high-ranking Virginia official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the case. "This was racketeering. Computers and records were seized. You're going to see some places go out of business."


The watermen and fish dealers have been charged under the Lacey Act, which prohibits the illegal taking of wildlife in one state for the purpose of selling it in another. Violations of the act carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, plus potential forfeiture of the boats and vehicles used.

Yesterday at U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, criminal complaints were filed against these watermen: Thomas L. Crowder Jr., 40, of Leonardtown; John W. Dean, 53, of Scotland; Charles Quade, 55, of Churchton; Keith Collins, 57, of Deale; and Thomas L. Hallock, 48, of Catharpin, Va.

"It's news to me," Dean said when reached by phone yesterday. "It may be me. I don't know."

"There have been a whole bunch of plea agreements, but I can't talk to you about it," Crowder said.

Law enforcement sources said individuals have admitted to poaching as much as $1 million worth of fish each over five years.

Annually, Maryland's 1,231 licensed watermen account for about 2 million pounds of the 7 million pounds of striped bass legally caught commercially on the Eastern Seaboard. The poaching scheme described in court documents and by sources means that the state vastly exceeded its annual striped bass quota for five years.

Maryland's watermen are required to report their catch at one of about 30 check stations, which are run by volunteers holding fish dealer licenses. Each fish must be tagged before it is unloaded from a boat. The check stations send the information - number of fish and weight of the catch - to the Department of Natural Resources in daily phone calls and file more comprehensive in weekly written reports.

But insufficient tag monitoring and allowing fish buyers to run check-in stations created a loophole that was exploited, Maryland officials acknowledge.

"This is a time to be sad about the lawlessness on the bay," said Maryland DNR Secretary John R. Griffin. "There's not a whole lot you can do to sugar-coat it. We toughened the rules last summer, but that obviously wasn't enough. It's become clear we need even more accountability."

The DNR is proposing regulations to tighten monitoring and enforcement of the commercial catch.

Andy Hughes, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland, called the poaching "both alarming in its scope and tremendously disappointing in that it was not dealt with many years earlier."

"We can't bring back the striped bass that have been stolen from us, but we can learn a lesson," Hughes said.

The investigation began in 2003, when Maryland Natural Resources Police tipped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to poaching in the bay and the river. Here's how the scheme worked, according to sources and court documents:

Watermen, like Joseph Peter Nelson, 69, and Joseph Peter Nelson Jr., 45, of St. Mary's County, received additional tags by filing false reports with the state about the number and weight of the striped bass they caught illegally in Maryland waters.

After reaching his Potomac River quota, the younger Nelson allegedly began using his tags designated for Chesapeake Bay use. From 2003 to 2006, he also used the commercial license of a waterman referred to in the indictment as "J.R." to secure more tags and falsify that catch.

Instead of carrying out transactions dockside, the indictment says, undercover officers from Virginia Marine Police posing as wholesale buyers took delivery of the fish from the Nelsons or unnamed men listed as unindicted co-conspirators at a private home in St. Mary's County, a walk-in cooler, a parking lot and near a bridge on a county road.
Other watermen joined the scheme, creating a supply of striped bass so vast that poachers and dealers brought workers into fish packing houses after hours to process the catch, sources say.

Both Nelsons have pleaded not guilty and contend that the statements they made to Maryland officers were made before they were read their rights. Louis Fireison, lawyer for the younger Nelson, said he could not discuss the case at this point. Lisa Lunt, lawyer for the elder Nelson, declined to comment.

To catch buyers, undercover officers peddled undersized, oversized and out-of-season striped bass.
Court documents show that for four years, beginning in April 2003, Robert Moore and Robert Moore Jr., who own Cannon Seafood Inc., in Washington, sold illegal striped bass and helped other unnamed people buy and sell fish.

Griffin said he hopes to see more joint enforcement efforts on the bay, an idea seconded by Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for Maryland.

"This is not the sort of case you can prove by looking at a fish once it's on a plate in a restaurant or somebody's kitchen. You have to actually be there when the fish are caught and when they're sold at the first stage," Rosenstein said. "I hope that this will be a model for other similar investigations because it's really critical that we join forces to pursue these kinds of cases."

DNR officials worry that this poaching scheme might eventually lead to Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission sanctions.

ASMFC Commissioner Pat Augustine of New York predicted that his fellow commissioners "will demand some form of punishment when this hits the table ... that could shut down commercial striped bass fishing in the Chesapeake. Maryland needs to come to the table eating humble pie."
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Old 01-31-2009, 01:42 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

"Annually, Maryland's 1,231 licensed watermen account for about 2 million pounds of the 7 million pounds of striped bass legally caught commercially on the Eastern Seaboard. The poaching scheme described in court documents and by sources means that the state vastly exceeded its annual striped bass quota for five years."

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Old 02-01-2009, 01:50 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

The charges are a result of the investigation by an interstate task force formed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland Natural Resources Police and the Virginia Marine Police, Special Investigative Unit in 2003. The task force conducted undercover purchases and sales of striped bass in 2003, engaged in covert observation of commercial fishing operations in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River area, and conducted detailed analysis of area striped bass catch reporting and commercial business sales records from 2003 through 2007. The investigation is continuing, and charges against others are possible.

These cases are being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Wayne Hettenbach of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Belf of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland with assistance from the U.S. Attorneys' Office for the District of Columbia.
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Old 02-02-2009, 03:38 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

Fishing infractions to be addressed after sting operation

By Candus Thomson February 2, 2009 Baltimore Sun

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission begins its winter meeting today in Alexandria, Va., and the first item on the agenda is a discussion of the status of striped bass along the Eastern Seaboard. Traditionally, commission members have been quick to punish Maryland for infractions, most recently slashing the recreational allocation to compensate for overfishing.

"I think the commission is going to want to have a clear understanding, as do we, of exactly how many fish are involved over what period of time," said Eric Schwaab, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "I think we'll be initiating that conversation with board members on Monday, but I think it will just be the beginning."


The illegal operation highlighted serious flaws in the state's monitoring and enforcement program, which is likely to anger ASMFC members.

"We've done things to correct what we know were problems," said John R. Griffin, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, noting that tougher rules are scheduled to take effect April6.

Adding to the tension is growing sentiment that striped bass, also known as rockfish, should be off-limits to commercial fishing. In October 2007, with the Chesapeake Bay as a backdrop, President George W. Bush signed an executive order giving the fish protection in federal waters and urged states to follow that lead.

A bill before the Massachusetts legislature would make it the sixth of the 15 member states of ASMFC to prohibit commercial striped bass fishing.

Drastic cuts in Maryland's commercial allocation could drive fish prices up and drive some of the 1,231 licensed watermen out of business.

But Griffin said recreational anglers should not be made to suffer if ASMFC acts.

"If it is principally or solely commercial watermen and others, I hope that whatever payback we have to make is limited to that sector of our fishery," he said.
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Old 02-03-2009, 02:33 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

Colbourne is a Dirtbag! This is absolutely horrific! If this guy had been taken off the water for a period of time after one of the other infractions this would have never happened. Absolutlely infuriating! I got this story from Stripers Forever this afternoon and lost it. The worst part of the whole thing is the fine is 250$ or 500$. This is not a deterrent to illegal harvest it is an invitation.
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Old 02-03-2009, 02:48 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

Jack this is an entirely different incident than the 6000 lbs Colbourne was nailed with . This is just the most recent, but they have been under surveilence since 2003.
This particular incident violates the Lacy Act.
Quote:
The watermen and fish dealers have been charged under the Lacey Act, which prohibits the illegal taking of wildlife in one state for the purpose of selling it in another. Violations of the act carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, plus potential forfeiture of the boats and vehicles used.

There was also an arrest of two commercials in NC blatently gill netting inland.

Gill net anglers run afoul of inland fishing laws
That story is here The Herald



The Colbourne thread is here

http://www.stripers247.com/phpBB2/sh...ad.php?t=15438

Capt. Byrne has started a thread also in his forum.
Poacher Page

http://www.stripers247.com/phpBB2/fo...play.php?f=218
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Old 02-03-2009, 04:22 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

That is why I got so upset. When I read it was Md. VA I thought it couldn't be the same guy sure enough....The other recent Colbourne incident was less than two months ago I believe.

Heres to hoping the penalties are enforced under the Lacey act and these guys get nailed. They are obviously operating with blatant disregard. They are biting the hand that feeds them and raping the fishery.

To all the commercial fishermen that may be on this site. It is men like Colbourne that are destroying your industry!
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Old 02-05-2009, 07:14 AM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

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Old 02-07-2009, 02:10 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

Winter meeting summary from the ASMFC

Quote:
Added to the Board’s agenda was discussion of the ongoing investigation into illegal commercial striped bass harvest, sale, and purchase in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. Thomas O’Connell, Director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Service, reviewed the currently known aspects of the investigation, and informed the Board that the DNR has proposed regulations to improve harvest reporting and accountability measures. Because the investigation is ongoing, the Board requested another update from the DNR at the Board’s next meeting.
For more information, please contact Nichola Meserve, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at (202) 289-6400
or nmeserve@asmfc.org
ASMFC Spring Meeting, May 4 - 7:
Crowne Plaza Old Town Alexandria, 901 N. Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia; (800) 333-3333.
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Old 04-11-2009, 08:22 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

Two More Commercial Fisherman Plead Guilty to Illegal Harvesting of Rockfish


WASHINGTON, April 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two commercial fisherman pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., to violations of the Lacey Act, the federal law that prohibits individuals from transporting, selling or buying illegally harvested fish, in this case striped bass or rockfish, the Justice Department announced.

Jerry Decatur Sr. of Stafford, Va., pleaded guilty to a one count criminal information for illegally taking and over-harvesting striped bass. Additionally, Kenneth Dent of Dumfries, Va., pleaded guilty to a one count criminal information for trafficking illegally taken striped bass.

According to documents filed with the court, on at least 13 occasions between 2004 through 2007, Decatur Sr. illegally harvested more than 10,000 pounds of striped bass from the Potomac River. The commercial fisherman fished out of season, kept over-sized fish or used nets that violated applicable regulations. He then sold the catch to two fish wholesalers in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he failed to affix tags to the majority of the striped bass that he caught thereby exceeding their limit by thousands of pounds. In April and May 2003 through 2007, Decatur harvested more than 65,000 beyond his limit. The fair market retail value of the over- and illegally- harvested rockfish was in excess of $329,000.

According to the documents, on multiple occasions, Dent sold hundreds of pounds of rockfish that were illegally harvested or tagged to an undercover special agent with the Virginia Marine Police, who told Dent that the fish were being transported to Pennsylvania. On one occasion, Dent illegally harvested 400 pounds of fish from Virginia tributaries of the Potomac River and sold it to the undercover agent for $990. He knowingly tagged much of the fish with incorrect tags to exceed his limit of Virginia-caught fish. The majority of these fish were also not within the legal size limit. On a second occasion, Dent sold the undercover agent 430 pounds of rockfish for $1000 that were larger than the legal size limit. On a third occasion, he sold the agent 480 pounds of fish for $1,375. All of these fish were more than the legal size limit. The fair market retail value of the transactions was in excess of $5,000. Further Dent illegally sold the undercover agent 100 striped bass tags despite a prohibition against private sales.

Decatur Sr. and Dent both face maximum penalties of up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years supervised release for the Lacey Act violations.

Today's guilty pleas are the result of the investigation by an interstate task force formed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland Natural Resources Police and the Virginia Marine Police, Special Investigative Unit in 2003. The task force conducted undercover purchases and sales of striped bass in 2003, engaged in covert observation of commercial fishing operations in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River area, and conducted detailed analysis of area striped bass catch reporting and commercial business sales records from 2003 through 2007. The investigation is continuing, and charges against others are possible.

As part of the investigation and prosecution to date, a total of 11 individuals and one company have been charged including today's defendants. Nine of those have pleaded guilty to wildlife crimes for their involvement in illegally harvesting and trafficking in striped bass. Two fishermen, Joseph Peter Nelson Jr., of Great Mills, Md., and his father Joseph Peter Nelson, of Avenue, Md., are awaiting trial, and one other commercial fisherman is awaiting arraignment and entry of a plea.

Sentencing dates in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt for five Maryland fishermen who pleaded guilty in this case are listed below.

Thomas L. Hallock April 22, 2009 9:30 AM
Charles Quade April 27, 2009 9:30 AM
Thomas L. Crowder April 28, 2009 9:30 AM
John W. Dean April 30, 2009 9:30 AM
Keith A. Collins May 28, 2009 9:30 AM

Cannon Seafood, a Washington, D.C. fish wholesaler, its owner Robert Moore Sr. and his son Robert Moore Jr. are scheduled for sentencing on May 8, 2009, at 9:30 AM in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Dawson Belf for the District of Maryland and Senior Trial Attorney Wayne Hettenbach of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section.




SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice
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Old 04-29-2009, 03:05 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

Virginia waterman sentenced in poaching case

48-year-old will have to serve a year, plus make restitution

By Candus Thomson | candy.thomson@baltsun.com 3:53 PM EDT, April 22, 2009 GREENBELT - A Virginia waterman was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to one year and one day in prison and a $4,000 fine and was ordered to make $40,000 in restitution for his part in the largest striped bass poaching case in the history of the Chesapeake Bay

With family and friends watching, Thomas Hallock, 48, of Catharpin, Va., was ordered by Judge Peter Messitte to surrender to marshals on May 22 to begin serving his sentence. One month after his release, Hallock will be required to pay $300 a month for 36 months, after which time the court will work out the terms for the remainder of his restitution.

Wayne Hettenbach, the lead prosecutor for the Justice Department, called the sentence, "fair and just. We are pleased with the sentence the judge imposed."

Hallock admitted to overfishing 68,442 pounds of rockfish that had a fair market retail value of $342,210.


Hettenbach told Messitte that Hallock had provided "substantial assistance" early in the five-year investigation, supplying information about the seafood dealers and other watermen.

That said, Hettenbach told the judge that by overfishing, poachers like Hallock had harmed the striped bass population, undercut the market for other watermen and skewed the quota system used by the 12 Eastern Seaboard states to prevent overharvesting.

The prosecutor noted that overfishing had caused the species to crash, forcing regulators to impose a five-year moratorium that ended in 1990. He also told the judge that as the spawning ground for about three-quarters of the East Coast striped bass population, the Chesapeake Bay needs protection.

"This crime has an impact up and down the East Coast," Hettenbach said.

Gill Cochran, the lawyer for Hallock, said the check-in system used by the Department of Natural Resources created a situation that was like letting "the fox in the hen house."

Allowing fish dealers to act as commercial check-in stations and having no auditing system allowed the poaching to go on unabated.

"That does not excuse what happened here," Cochran said. "The fisherman, he's sort of caught in the middle. The buyers reap the benefit of all this."

In a halting voice and pausing to keep his composure, Hallock said news accounts had made the watermen out to be "poachers and pirates," but "I'm just a father and a husband, a fisherman ... I didn't do this out of greed ... I have a strong desire to support my family."

While saying he had "some sympathy for the watermen out there," Messitte said he had to decide on a sentence "that's going to make the point here."

As part of his plea agreement, Hallock waived the right of appeal.
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Old 06-12-2009, 03:21 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

Wholesaler pleads guilty in rockfish case
By Tim Wheeler Baltimore Sun
June 12, 2009
A St. Mary's County fish wholesaler who authorities say is at the heart of the largest striped-bass poaching case in Chesapeake Bay history pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt to falsifying Maryland catch reports and interstate trafficking in illegal fish. Robert Lumpkins, owner of Golden Eye Seafood in Piney Point, admitted that from 2003 to 2007, while acting as a commercial check station for the state Department of Natural Resources, he and his employees falsely recorded the amount of striped bass, or rockfish, that fishermen caught. Golden Eye bought oversized striped bass caught in Virginia waters for sale out of state, according to court documents.
Lumpkins faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each of the four counts. The maximum penalty for Golden Eye is a $500,000 fine. A judge could also order restitution. So far, a five-year sting operation by state and federal authorities has resulted in the sentencing of six men for a total of 45 months in prison
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Old 12-15-2009, 10:40 AM
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Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 8, 2009



District of Columbia Seafood Company, Two Employees Charged with Purchasing Illegally Harvested Striped Bass

WASHINGTON— A Washington, D.C., fish wholesaler and two of its employees have been charged in U.S. District Court in Maryland for the purchase of illegally harvested striped bass, commonly referred to as rockfish, from the Potomac River from 1995 through 2007, the Justice Department announced today.
Ocean Pro Ltd., aka Profish, and two of its fish buyers, Timothy Lydon of Bethesda, Md., and Benjamin Clough of Graysonville, Md., were charged in a five-count felony indictment, alleging one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, three substantive felony Lacey Act counts, and one count of making a false statement. The Lacey Act is a federal law that prohibits individuals or corporations from transporting, selling, or buying fish and wildlife harvested illegally.
The indictment alleges that from 1995 to May 2007, Profish purchased striped bass that had been illegally harvested in Maryland and Virginia, from at least five commercial fishermen. The indictment also charges one commercial fisherman, Gordon Jett of Fredericksburg, Va., for his role in illegally harvesting striped bass and selling them to Profish in 2007.
According to the indictment, in at least 1995, Profish began buying illegally harvested rockfish from local commercial fishermen. Initially, Lydon was Profish’s buyer for striped bass. Clough assumed that role in 2001, when he was hired by Profish, and he continued to purchase untagged and oversized striped bass from commercial fisherman and others until May 2007. The indictment alleges that in 2007, Jett, on numerous occasions, sold untagged and oversized striped bass to Profish.
In early spring each year, wild coastal striped bass (Morone saxatilis) enter the estuary or river where they were born to spawn, and then return to ocean waters to live, migrating along the coastline. Fish spawned from the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem contribute the greatest number of striped bass to the Atlantic coastal fishery, and the commercial fishery for Atlantic coastal striped bass is based primarily on migrations of fish born in the Chesapeake Bay area. Striped bass do not die after spawning. They may live up to 30 years and reach 50 pounds or more. The population of coastal Atlantic striped bass depends heavily upon the capability of older, larger, female striped bass to successfully reproduce.
Maryland regulates the commercial catch of striped bass from its waters and enforces the regulations of the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, which regulates the commercial catch of striped bass from Maryland waters located in the main stem of the Potomac River. The striped bass management and protection measures, including tagging requirements, closed seasons, size limits, and quota amounts, are focused on maintaining a target spawning stock to protect the fishery from over-fishing.
The Lacey Act carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gain or loss as a result of the crime. Corporations face a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the gain or loss as a result of the crime.
A criminal indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual or company charged by criminal indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The charges are a result of the investigation by an interstate task force formed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland Natural Resources Police and the Virginia Marine Police, Special Investigative, Unit in 2003. The task force conducted undercover purchases and sales of striped bass in 2003, engaged in covert observation of commercial fishing operations in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River area, and conducted detailed analysis of area striped bass catch reporting and commercial business sales records from 2003 through 2007.

These cases are being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorneys Kevin Cassidy and Wayne Hettenbach of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Belf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
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Old 12-15-2009, 10:40 AM
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Old 06-23-2010, 10:04 PM
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Default Re: State, federal investigators uncover extensive poaching ring in Md., Va

Does any one know more about the status of this case?
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