KEYS LOBSTER CASE RESULTS IN TWO ADDITIONAL GUILTY PLEAS AND SENTENCING
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division, announced that Rush C. Maltz, 36, of the Saddle Bunch Keys, and Titus A. Werner, 36, of Little Torch Key, both pled guilty yesterday in federal District Court in Key West on charges of having conspired to receive, purchase, sell, and transport quantities of lobster for distribution in interstate commerce, without complying with Florida law regarding commercial harvest requirements, licensing provisions, and bag and trip limits essential to the lawful harvest, possession, and sale of saltwater products, in violation of the Lacey Act, all in violation of the federal conspiracy statute, Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. In a subsequent proceeding also held yesterday, their co-defendant Scott A. Greager, 48, of Stock Island, Florida, was sentenced on the same charge.
U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez accepted the guilty pleas and scheduled sentencing for Maltz and Greager for March 27, 2012 in Key West at 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., respectively. The defendants face up to five years’ imprisonment and a term of supervised release of up to three years, as well as a criminal fine of up to $250,000. Additionally, defendant Maltz is subject to the forfeiture of the proceeds of the sale of two vessels used in furtherance of the criminal offenses.
Judge Martinez sentenced Scott Greager to a period of 90 days’ imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release with a special condition requiring Greager to serve one year of electronically monitored home detention. Greager received a reduced sentence as a result of his substantial assistance to the government, which according to statements in court, was a significant factor in the entry of the guilty pleas by Maltz and Werner.
According to court records, factual statements placed in the record by the parties, and statements made during the hearing, from as early as May 28, 2007 through approximately March 2009, Scott Greager was the sole Director, Officer, Registered Agent, and owner of Holiday Seafood Key West (Holiday), a Florida corporation with its principal business address on Tamarind Drive in Key West. Utilizing a Florida Wholesale Dealer’s License issued in the name of Conch Republic Seafood Company, Greager knowingly made numerous purchases of spiny lobster over the time frame of the conspiracy from Maltz and Werner. These purchases involved the harvest and sale of lobster in excess of the Florida legal daily limit of 250 lobsters. The three defendants also admitted that Greager made payments from an account in the name of Holiday to Maltz and Werner, which they attempted to conceal from the State of Florida by issuing required trip tickets in the name of an unwitting third party. To further limit the likelihood of detection by authorities, the co-conspirators regularly landed lobster that was attributed to harvests from two different vessels - although both were owned by Maltz and operated by the co-conspirators.
According to defendant Greager’s Joint Factual Statement, on seven separate occasions in August 2008, Maltz and Werner made multiple sales to Greager of spiny lobster harvested on the same day using Maltz’ See Vee and T-Craft. Those seven days of multiple transactions, apart from the other illegal sales, represented more than 5,000 pounds of lobster with a wholesale value of almost $40,000. The entire two-year course of conduct involved more than $263,000 in illegally harvested and sold lobster.
During the relevant period, Florida Statutes and the Florida Administrative Code set strict requirements for commercial harvest limits on Florida spiny lobster. Florida law also required certain licenses and endorsements for a seafood product harvester to lawfully operate in the State. Wholesale dealers, such as Greager and his business, Holiday, were prohibited from purchasing lobster without first confirming that the seller possessed all required licenses and endorsements, and thereafter making truthful and accurate reports of the transactions to the State.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Special Agents of the NOAA Office for Law Enforcement and thanked the Officers of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission who assisted in bringing the case to our office. 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.