Four commercial fishermen and one company were indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury in Baltimore for a criminal conspiracy involving the illegal harvesting and interstate sale of striped bass on the Chesapeake Bay, announced Robert G. Dreher, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.
According to court documents, Michael D. Hayden Jr., his company, William J. Lednum, Kent Sadler and Daniel Murphy engaged in a multi-year conspiracy during which time they harvested tens of thousands of pounds of striped bass on the Chesapeake Bay in violation of Maryland fishing regulations, falsified documents filed with the State of Maryland, and then transported and sold those poached fish in interstate commerce. In addition, after the investigation of these crimes began, it is alleged that Hayden attempted to manipulate some witnesses’ testimony while trying to outright prevent the testimony and cooperation of others. In addition, it is alleged that in at least one incident, Hayden threatened to retaliate against another potential witness he believed to be cooperating with investigators. Hayden was arrested on Sept. 17, 2013, having been charged in a criminal complaint with several counts of witness intimidation and retaliation.
The 26-count indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy, and Lacey Act violations. These charges carry possible terms of incarceration of five years. In addition, the witness intimidation/retaliation charges against Mr. Hayden each carry a maximum-term of 20 years in prison.
An indictment is a charging document and all defendants are innocent until proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by criminal investigators with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Police and Special Agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The case is being jointly prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and the Environmental Crimes Section of the United States Department of Justice.