News

Seafood Wholesaler and Owner Plead Guilty to Conspiracy in the Illegal Harvesting of Rock Fish

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2009

Greenbelt, Maryland—Golden Eye Seafood LLC and owner, Robert Lumpkins of St. Mary’s County, Md., pleaded guilty today to conspiring to violate and violating the Lacey Act, by falsely recording the amount and weight of striped bass, also known as rockfish, that were harvested by local fisherman and checked-in through Golden Eye from 2003 to 2007, announced United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein and John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

According to his plea agreement, from at least 2003 to the present, Lumpkins was a fish wholesaler, doing business from his residence in Piney Point, Maryland, under the name Golden Eye Seafood. Lumpkins, through, Golden Eye, acted as a commercial striped bass check-in station for the state of Maryland. Lumpkins admitted that on numerous occasions from 2003 to 2007, he falsely recorded the amount of striped bass that fisherman harvested and failed to record some of the striped bass that was caught or recorded a lower weight of striped bass than was actually caught. Lumpkins and the fisherman would also falsely inflate the actual number of fish harvested. By under-reporting the weight of fish harvested, and over-reporting the number of fish taken, the records would make it appear that the fishermen had failed to reach the maximum poundage quota for the year, but had nonetheless run out of tags. As a result, the state would issue additional tags that could be used by the fishermen allowing them to catch striped bass above their maximum poundage quota amount. Lumpkins and Golden Eye shipped the majority of the fish to purchasers in Maryland and in other states. Lumpkins also purchased fish that were outside the legal size limit from an undercover agent and sold those fish to purchasers in New York, Virginia, and California.

Golden Eye Seafood faces a maximum fine of $500,000 on each of the three counts to which it pleaded guilty and Robert Lumpkins faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the four counts to which he pleaded guilty. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte has scheduled the sentencing hearing for September 22 and 23, 2009.

Additionally, John Evans, a commercial fisherman who operated in St. Mary’s County and the surrounding waters of the Chesapeake Bay, was charged with a violation of the Lacey Act for overfishing striped bass. Two other fishermen, Joseph Peter Nelson Jr. of Great Mills, Md., and his father Joseph Peter Nelson of Avenue, Md., have been indicted in the District of Maryland and are awaiting trial.

Sentencing dates for the remaining defendants who have pleaded guilty to similar charges are listed below.

Kenneth Dent July 2, 2009 9:30 AM
Jerry Decatur, Sr. July 1, 2009 9:30 AM
Jerry Decatur, Jr. August 12, 2009 9:30 AM

Cannon Seafood, a Washington, D.C., fish wholesaler, its owner, Robert Moore Sr. and his son Robert Moore Jr. pleaded guilty to similar charges. Cannon Seafood was ordered to pay restitution of $28,000 and a fine of $80,000. Robert Moore, Sr. and Robert Moore, Jr. were each sentenced to 4 months home detention, followed by 3 years probation, and were ordered to pay restitution of $15,000 and $10,000, and a fine of $40,000 and $30,000, respectively.

Thomas L. Hallock, a commercial fisherman licensed in Maryland, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, for illegally overfishing rockfish and was ordered to pay restitution of $40,000 and a fine of $4,000. Commercial fisherman Thomas Crowder was sentenced to 15 months in prison, ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and restitution of $96,250 and Charles Quade was sentenced to five months in prison, followed by five months of home detention. Quade was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and restitution of $5,000. Keith Collins was sentenced to 13 months in prison and was ordered to pay $70,569 in restitution and a fine of $4,500. All of the restitution is to be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to the benefit of the Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass Restoration Account.

As a result of the investigation and prosecution, two fish wholesalers and a total of 15 individuals have been charged for illegally harvesting and underreporting their catch of striped bass, including today’s defendants. Eleven individuals and two wholesale companies have pleaded guilty.

Today’s guilty pleas are the result of the investigation by an interstate task force formed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland Natural Resources Police and the Virginia Marine Police, Special Investigative Unit in 2003. The task force conducted undercover purchases and sales of striped bass in 2003, engaged in covert observation of commercial fishing operations in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River area, and conducted detailed analysis of area striped bass catch reporting and commercial business sales records from 2003 through 2007.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stacy Dawson Belf and Christen Sproule for the District of Maryland and Senior Trial Attorney Wayne Hettenbach of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.

 

 

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