News and Press Releases

PALM BEACH COUNTY RESIDENT CHARGED IN EFFORT TO IMPORT ILLEGAL CATCH FROM THE BAHAMAS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hal Robbins, Special Agent in Charge, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division, Michael Shea, Deputy Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, and Major Jeff Hubert, Regional Commander, South A Region, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), announced today that Van Bodden-Martinez, a Bahamian national residing in Palm Beach County, was arrested on a warrant issued as a result of his indictment by a federal Grand Jury for having imported and attempted to import into the United States fish and wildlife possessed and transported in violation of the laws of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, in violation of the Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3371(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(1)(A).

According to the indictment, on or about February 19, 2011, in Palm Beach County, Bodden-Martinez attempted to import spiny lobster (Panulirus argus), queen conch (Strombus gigus), and yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus), all of which had been harvested without first acquiring a permit to engage in fishing activities and in violation of the possession limits for each of the species set forth in the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, specifically, the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction & Conservation) Regulations, Part X, Sections 47(1)(a), (b) and 48(1)(f).

In a separate count of the indictment, the government is also pursuing the forfeiture of the illegal catch. According to the allegations of the indictment, approximately 45 spiny lobster tails, 343.5 pounds of queen conch, 42 yellowtail snapper, and two insulated ice-chest coolers are subject to forfeiture as a result of Bodden-Martinez’ violation of U.S. and Bahamian law.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra. If convicted on the charge, Bodden-Martinez faces a possible term of imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years. Bodden-Martinez is scheduled to make his first court appearance on the charges at 10:00 a.m., April 21, 2011, at the Federal Courthouse, 701 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach.

Mr. Ferrer commended the coordinated investigative efforts of the Special Agents and Officers of the NOAA Office for Enforcement, ICE, CBP, FWC, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.

An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

n. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen L. Cohen and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hadges.

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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.

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