News and Press Releases


October 12, 2011

Wifredo A, Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division, announced that David P. Horan, Jr., 42, of Key West, was sentenced today at the Sidney M. Aronovitz Federal Courthouse 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. District Judge K. Michael Moore, who previously had accepted Horan’s plea to the felony charge, sentenced him to a period of probation of 2 years, to perform 200 hours of community service, and to participate in a drug treatment program. Although Horan faced a prison term of up to five years, his sentence was reduced because of his cooperation with the investigative authorities and his willingness to be a witness.

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 any 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.

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 Office for Enforcement. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.

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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 Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on

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