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Seafood Wholesaler, Owner Sentenced in Illegal Rock Fish Conspiracy

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The County Times Newspaper

The Southern Calvert Gazette Newspaper

Posted on September 28, 2009

Owner Sentenced to 18 Months in Federal Prison

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Robert Lumpkins, owner of Golden Eye Seafood LLC, of St. Mary's County, Md., was sentenced to 18 months in prison and the company was sentenced today to 3 years probation by U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte after a two day sentencing hearing in the District of Maryland, the Justice Department announced.

Additionally, they were sentenced to pay a fine of $36,000 and restitution of $164,040.50 along with a special assessment of $1,600.

Lumpkins and Golden Eye had previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate and violating the Lacey Act, by falsely recording the amount and weight of striped bass, also known as rockfish that were harvested by local fishermen and checked-in through Golden Eye from 2003 to 2007.

According to Lumpkins' plea agreement, from at least 2003 to the present, he was a fish wholesaler, doing business from his residence in Piney Point, Md., under the name Golden Eye Seafood. Lumpkins, through, Golden Eye, acted as a commercial striped bass check-in station for the state of Maryland. Lumpkins admitted that on numerous occasions from 2003 to 2007, he falsely recorded the amount of striped bass that fisherman harvested and failed to record some of the striped bass that was caught or recorded a lower weight of striped bass than was actually caught.

Lumpkins and the fishermen would also falsely inflate the actual number of fish harvested. By under-reporting the weight of fish harvested, and over-reporting the number of fish taken, the records would make it appear that the fishermen had failed to reach the maximum poundage quota for the year, but had nonetheless run out of tags. As a result, the state would issue additional tags that could be used by the fishermen allowing them to catch striped bass above their maximum poundage quota amount. Lumpkins and Golden Eye shipped the majority of the fish to purchasers in Maryland and in other states. Lumpkins also purchased fish that were outside the legal size limit from an undercover agent and sold those fish to purchasers in New York, Virginia, and California.

"This prison sentence sends a strong message to commercial fishermen and wholesalers on the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. Those who illegally harvest rockfish will be investigated, prosecuted and face stiff sentences including the possibility of incarceration," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein stated, "If commercial fishermen obey the rules, we can all enjoy rockfish forever. If they don't, the rockfish population could be wiped out very quickly. This sentence sends a message that we are serious about protecting the rockfish population in the Chesapeake Bay."

Joseph Peter Nelson Jr., a commercial fisherman licensed in Maryland, pleaded guilty to four felony violations of the Lacey Act for participating in a scheme to illegally over harvest and under report the amount of rockfish he took from the Potomac River. His father, Joseph Peter Nelson Sr., also pleaded guilty to one felony violation of the Lacey Act for assisting in transporting the illegally taken rockfish in interstate commerce. The Nelsons are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22, 2009. Jerry Decatur, Sr. and Jerry Decatur, Jr. both pleaded guilty to violations of the Lacey Act and are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, 2009, respectively.

Additionally, John Evans, a commercial fisherman who operated in St. Mary's County and the surrounding waters of the Chesapeake Bay, pleaded guilty to a violation of the Lacey Act for overfishing striped bass and was sentenced to three months in prison followed by six months home detention.

Cannon Seafood, a Washington, D.C., fish wholesaler, its owner, Robert Moore Sr. and his son Robert Moore Jr. pleaded guilty to similar charges. Cannon Seafood was ordered to pay restitution of $28,000 and a fine of $80,000. Robert Moore Sr. and Robert Moore Jr., were each sentenced to four months home detention, followed by three years probation, and were ordered to pay restitution of $15,000 and $10,000, and a fine of $40,000 and $30,000, respectively.

Thomas L. Hallock, a commercial fisherman licensed in Maryland, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, for illegally overfishing rockfish and was ordered to pay restitution of $40,000 and a fine of $4,000. Commercial fisherman Thomas Crowder was sentenced to 15 months in prison, ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and restitution of $96,250 and Charles Quade was sentenced to five months in prison, followed by five months of home detention. Quade was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and restitution of $5,000. Keith Collins was sentenced to 13 months in prison and was ordered to pay $70,569 in restitution and a fine of $4,500. Kenneth Dent was ordered to pay $2,905 in restitution and was sentenced to 3 years probation. Crowder, Quade, Collins and Dent all pleaded guilty to Lacey Act violations for overfishing striped bass. All of the restitution is to be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to the benefit of the Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass Restoration Account.

As a result of the investigation and prosecution, two fish wholesalers and a total of 15 individuals, including today's defendants, have been convicted of illegally harvesting and underreporting their catch of striped bass.

These cases resulted from an 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 cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stacy Dawson Belf and Christen Sproule 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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