William W. Lowery IV, 44, of Tappahannock, Va., pleaded guilty today to trafficking in illegally-harvested striped bass, in violation of the Lacey Act, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Among other things, the Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase any fish and wildlife taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law or regulation of the United States, or to attempt to do so. Under the Lacey Act, it is a “sale” of fish or wildlife for any person, for money or other consideration, to offer or provide guiding, outfitting, or other services.
Lowery was indicted on Nov. 8, 2012, by a federal grand jury on one count each of violating the Lacey Act and Destruction of Evidence. Lowery faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, and one-year of supervised release. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 9, 2013.
As part of his plea agreement, Lowery has agreed to serve 30 days in jail, pay a $5,000 fine and $1,300 in restitution to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the illegally-harvested striped bass, and surrender his captain’s license for life. As part of his plea agreement, Lowery has also agreed that he will not engage in the charter fishing industry in any capacity during the term of his supervised release.
In a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Lowery admitted that on Jan. 15, 2010, he took a charter fishing trip into the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to fish for striped bass, knowing that it was illegal to fish for striped bass in the EEZ. When Lowery’s boat, the Anna Lynn was approached by law enforcement, Lowery attempted to flee. When the Anna Lynn was caught, law enforcement officers observed a plastic trash barrel with 13 Striped Bass floating in the water near the Anna Lynn. The trash barrel had been thrown overboard from the Anna Lynn during the pursuit, and the striped bass contained within the trash barrel had been harvested by fishermen aboard the Anna Lynn within the EEZ.
This case was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fisheries, Office for Law Enforcement, and the U.S. Coast Guard with assistance from the Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau, Norfolk, Va. Office. Trial Attorney James B. Nelson of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen W. Haynie from the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.