KEY WEST FISHERMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO ILLEGAL HARVESTING ACTIVITY
Wifredo A, Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Tracy Dunn, Acting Special Agent in Charge, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), Southeast Division, announced that DAVID P. HORAN, JR., 42, of Key West, pled guilty yesterday in federal Magistrate’s Court in Key West for having unlawfully harvested and sold black grouper in interstate commerce, without complying with Florida law regarding commercial harvest requirements and without holding valid endorsements and permits essential to the lawful harvest, possession, and sale of saltwater products, all in violation of the federal Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2)(A) and (a)(4), and 3373(d)(1)(A).
U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow accepted Horan’s plea to the felony charge, and indicated that she would recommend Horan be formally adjudicated guilty by District Judge K. Michael Moore, who has been assigned the case. Judge Moore had referred the matter for hearing by Magistrate Judge Snow, and has set the case for sentencing on October 11, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. in the Sidney M. Aronovitz Federal Courthouse in Key West. Horan faces a possible sentence of up to five years in prison, a period of supervised release of up to three years, and a criminal fine of up to $250,000 in the case.
According to court records and statements made during the hearing, from as early as July 2007 through approximately October 2010, Horan regularly engaged in harvesting activity for spiny lobster and finfish, while holding only a Florida commercial fishing license. During that period, Florida Statutes and the Florida Administrative Code set strict requirements for commercial harvesting methods for Florida spiny lobster and designated a range of marine life, including certain finfish as “Restricted Species” subject to special oversight. Florida law, as part of its effort to protect and replenish Florida’s reef fish, also required harvesters to hold federally required permits and licenses. To commercially harvest snapper and grouper in federally regulated Atlantic and Gulf waters adjacent to Florida, specific federal permits issued by NOAA are required. Wholesale dealers in Florida were prohibited from purchasing lobster and finfish without first confirming that the seller possessed all required state and federal licenses.
At the plea hearing, Horan admitted that during the relevant period he had harvested spiny lobster by diving, without holding the requisite dive endorsement, and also harvested finfish without the necessary federal permits that Florida law also required him to possess. The seafood products he harvested were sold to Rusty Anchor Seafood of Key West, Inc. (Rusty Anchor), a business located on Stock Island. Rusty Anchor was previously convicted on related charges in April 2011, and sentenced to pay a $500,000 criminal fine. The illegal sales of finfish by Horan to Rusty Anchor, including the sale for which he was specifically charged, were concealed from authorities by misidentifying the true species being sold in trip reports filed with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. The 133 pounds of black grouper sold by Horan on January 2, 2008, for a wholesale price of $551, was falsely reported as mahoua, purportedly caught by cast net acquired. Mahoua is an unregulated species commonly used as a bait fish. Overall, the relevant conduct identified in Court exceeded $30,000 in unlawfully harvested and sold seafood product.
Mr. Ferrer commended the coordinated investigative efforts of the Special Agents of the NOAA-OLE. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.