Keys Case Results in Jail Time for Lobstermen
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division, announced that Rush C. Maltz, 36, of the Saddle Bunch Keys, Florida and Titus A. Werner, 36, of Little Torch Key, Florida, were sentenced yesterday in Key West for conspiring to receive, purchase, sell, and transport lobster for distribution, in violation of federal and state licensing and catch limit laws, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.
U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Maltz to 18 months imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release and Werner to a term of imprisonment of one year and one day, followed by one year of supervised release. In addition, Judge Martinez ordered Maltz to forfeit $62,000, representing the proceeds of the sale of two fishing vessels owned by Maltz and his charter fishing company. The vessels were used in the commission of the crime. In addition, at their own expense and under NOAA’s supervision, defendants Maltz and Werner are removing over 200 “casitas” that they had illegally placed in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. “Casitas” are structures placed on the ocean floor to lure and concentrate spiny lobster for harvesting.
In January 2012, a third defendant in the case, Scott A. Greager, 48, of Stock Island, Florida, was also sentenced to a prison term and supervised release for his role in the conspiracy.
According to court records and statements made in court, from as early as May 28, 2007, through about March 2009, Greager owned Holiday Seafood Key West. Using a Florida Wholesale Dealer’s License issued in the name of Conch Republic Seafood Company, Greager made numerous purchases of spiny lobster from Maltz and Werner, knowing that the purchases involved the harvest and sale of lobster that were illegally obtained through the use of unlicensed structures and were over the daily limit of 250. The defendants attempted to conceal the purchases from the State of Florida by falsifying documentation submitted to the state regulatory agency. To further conceal the crime, the defendants regularly attributed lobster landing numbers to harvests from two different vessels -- although both were owned by Maltz and operated by Maltz and Werner. Over just two commercial seasons, the three defendants made 113 landings of spiny lobster harvested from illegal casitas.
During the relevant period, Florida law 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 were prohibited from purchasing lobster without first confirming that the seller possessed all required licenses and endorsements, and making truthful and accurate reports of the transactions to the State. Divers were required to hold a series of endorsements, including a highly restricted “CD” endorsement that was assigned to a specific licensee and a specific vessel.
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. Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Antonia Barnes.
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.