FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEENRD
THURSDAY, AUGUST 10, 2000DOJ (202) 514-2000
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
SAN FRANCISCO SEAFOOD DEALER PLEADS GUILTY TO
SCHEME TO ILLEGALLY CATCH PROTECTED FISH
Washington, D.C. -- The Justice Department announced today that F. Alioto Co., a seafood company at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, has pleaded guilty to a scheme to sell and export protected fish that were caught in violation of California law.
Sentencing of the fish wholesaler and retailer is scheduled for September 29, 2000 before federal Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero in San Francisco.
The company admitted that it conspired to violate the Lacey Act, a federal statute barring the transportation, sale or export of fish caught in violation of state law. The plea was taken on August 9 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
The F. Alioto Co. said that in 1995 and 1996, it accepted fish that are subject to federal catch limits and misrepresented these deliveries to the California Department of Fish and Game on receipt slips. The company misrepresented the fish deliveries in order to conceal the fact that federal catch limits for these fish had been exceeded. Business records show that during 1995 and 1996, the company failed to report to the state more 100,000 pounds of fish with a value of more than $120,000.
The fish at issue in this case include channel rockfish (also known as thornyheads), sablefish (also known as black cod) and Dover sole. The thornyheads and black cod were sold to fish dealers in Japan, where almost all such fish are exported and are prized by consumers.
Thornyheads and black cod are among the most valuable fish found off the U.S. Pacific coast. Due to concerns about fishing pressure on their diminishing populations, these species are subject to yearly catch quotas administered by the National Marine Fisheries Service in conjunction with the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which is comprised of federal, state, and fishing industry representatives.
"Overall, West Coast groundfish stocks are not in good shape," said Rod McInnis, Assistant Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service Southwest Region in Long Beach, California. "Adhering to restrictions is a must if we expect to have sustainable fish populations for the future. And the accurate reporting of catch is an essential part of their recovery. When catch limits are violated, fish stocks suffer and so do the law-abiding fishermen who sacrifice for the future."
As part of the scheme, F. Alioto Co. admitted that on one occasion its former general manager sent a receipt to state regulators reporting that one of its vessels -- which was in dry dock at the time -- had caught more 15,000 pounds of fish. This false receipt masked the fact one of the company's other vessels -- which had already exceed its monthly catch limit -- had actually caught the fish.
Related to today's announcement, on June 23, 2000, Serge Joseph Cincotta a/k/a "Joe" Cincotta, 40, of San Raphael, Calif., the former general manager of F. Alioto Fish Company, and Francesco Licata a/k/a "Frank" Licata, 53 of Antioch, Calif., the former captain of the fishing vessel Ms. Juliet, pled guilty in San Francisco to conspiring to violate the Lacey Act. They are scheduled to be sentenced on September 29.
The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the National Marine Fisheries Service, with the assistance of the California Department of Fish and Game. The case was jointly prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California and the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.
F. Alioto Co. is not connected to the restaurant located on Fisherman's Wharf named "Alioto's."