The operator of the dragger F/V Norseman and an associated fish dealer were sentenced today in federal court in Central Islip, N.Y., for criminal violations stemming from their role in systematically underreporting fluke (summer flounder) that was being harvested as part of the federal Research Set-Aside Program, the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announced.
On Aug. 15, 2013, Wertz pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and two counts of falsification of federal records for knowingly submitting 137 falsified dealer reports from May 2009 through December 2011, and 70 falsified fishing logs, known as fishing vessel trip reports (FVTRs), from May 2011 through December 2011, as part of a scheme to defraud the United States of overharvested and unreported fluke. C&C Ocean Fishery Ltd. pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and three counts of falsification of federal records for its participation in the scheme, which included aiding and abetting the submission of falsified dealer reports and FVTRs.
C&C Ocean was not only aware of the false Norseman FVTRs, but it aided and abetted the perpetration of the FVTR scheme through its preparation of federal dealer reports. As a federal dealer, C&C Ocean was required to prepare and submit federal dealer reports to NOAA. The dealer reports include information such as date of landing, port of landing, catch vessel, corresponding FVTR numbers, commercial grade, species, price, and weight. In order to cover up the overharvesting that occurred on the water, C&C Ocean’s dealer report had to match the catch data that was submitted on the corresponding FVTR. In other words, if the FVTR falsely underreported the Norseman’s catch of fluke, then the scheme would likely be detected unless the corresponding dealer report was similarly falsified. Both defendants prepared and submitted false dealer reports for each of the trips set forth in the table.
The case was investigated by special agents of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police. The case is being prosecuted by Christopher L. Hale of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, Environment and Natural Resources Division.
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