Two Palm Beach County Men Charged for Importing Illegal Catch from the Bahamas
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), Southeast Division, Major Jeff Hubert, Regional Commander, South A Region, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and Randy Donnelson, Director of Air Operations for Miami Air and Marine Branch, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), announced that Robert Fortunato, 55, and Mark Kulbacky, 56, both of Palm Beach County, were arraigned today on an indictment, returned on Feb. 16, 2012, charging them with illegally importing and attempting to import conch from the Bahamas into the United States, in violation of the Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3371(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(1)(A); conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and making false statements, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001.
According to the indictment, on February 6, 2012, Fortunato and Kulbacky attempted to import queen conch (Strombus gigus), in excess of the limits established by the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, specifically, the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction & Conservation) Regulations, Part X, Sections 47(1)(a), (b) and 48(1)(f), and Part XV, Section 70(1). The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of approximately 1,500 pounds of queen conch and a 26' Mako vessel.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas. If convicted on the charges, Fortunato and Kulbacky face a maximum statutory term of imprisonment of up to five years, to be followed by a term of supervised release of up to three years. Trial has been scheduled for April 2, 2012, at the Federal Courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Mr. Ferrer commended the coordinated investigative efforts of ICE-HSI, NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, FWC, and CBP. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman O. Hemming, III.
An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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.