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Environmental Crimes Bulletin October 2023 Week 1

In this issue:

AnchorUnited States v. Christopher Winkler, et al., No. 2:21-CR-00217 (E.D.N.Y.), ECS Trial Attorney Christopher Hale, ECS Senior Trial Attorney Ken Nelson, and ECS Paralegals Samantha Goins and Jonah Fruchtman

On October 4, 2023, a jury convicted Christopher Winkler on all counts (conspiracy, mail fraud, and obstruction of justice) following a three-week trial. Winkler, a commercial fisherman, conspired to commit mail fraud, to obstruct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the falsification of fishing logs, and to unlawfully frustrate NOAA’s efforts at regulating federal fisheries in connection with a scheme to illegally overharvest fluke and black sea bass (18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1341, 1519).

Prosecutors charged Winkler and others in April 2021, as part of a conspiracy that was incorporated into the new indictment. However, the other defendants were not charged in the superseding indictment.

Between May 2014 and February 2017, Winkler, as captain of the F/V New Age, went on at least 220 fishing trips where he caught fluke or black sea bass in excess of applicable trip limits. At various times during the conspiracy, this fish was sold to two now-defunct companies in the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx and a fish dealer in Montauk. The overages of fish included at least 200,000 pounds of fluke, and the overall over-quota fish (of all species) were valued at least at $850,000 wholesale.

Under federal law, a fishing captain is required to accurately detail his catch on a form known as a Fishing Vessel Trip Report (FVTR), which is mailed to NOAA. Similarly, the first company that buys fish directly from a fishing vessel, termed a fish dealer, is required to specify what it purchases on a federal form known as a dealer report. NOAA relies on this information to set policies designed to ensure a sustainable fishery. The superseding indictment alleges that part of the conspiracy was to falsify both FVTRs and dealer reports to conceal the fact that fish were taken in excess of quotas.

Initiated as part of Operation One-Way Chandelier, the charges are part of a multi-year, ongoing investigation into fisheries fraud on Long Island.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement conducted the investigation.

AnchorUnited States v. Charles Limmer, No. 1:23-CR-00405 (E.D.N.Y.), AUSA Sean M. Sherman

On October 3, 2023, prosecutors filed a six-count indictment charging Charles Limmer with Endangered Species Act, Lacey Act, and smuggling violations for trafficking in numerous specimens of butterflies known as “‘birdwings” due to their exceptional size, angular wings, and birdlike flight. They are protected under CITES Appendix II (18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 545; 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(1), (a)(4), 3373(d)(1)(B)).

Limmer obtained a license in 2016 to import and export wildlife. But after Limmer and his business violated numerous import/export regulations, the Fish and Wildlife Service suspended his license. Between October 2022 and September 2023, Limmer and others imported and exported at least 59 illegal shipments containing wildlife, with valued at approximately $216,000. They falsely labelled the wildlife as “decorative wall coverings" or "origami paper creations." If convicted, the defendant will forfeit approximately 1,600 specimens.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement conducted the investigation.

AnchorUnited States v. Frederick Douglass Moorefield, Jr., et al., No. 1:23-CR-00354 (D. Md.), AUSAs Alexander Levin and Darryl L. Tarver

On October 3, 2023, prosecutors filed an indictment charging Frederick Douglass Moorefield, Jr., and Mario Damon Flythe, with promoting and furthering an animal fighting venture. They also are charged with interstate travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise (18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 49(a); 7 U.S.C. § 2156(c); 18 US.C. § 1952). 

Moorefield is a Deputy Chief Information Officer for Command, Control, and Communications for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Moorefield and Flythe used an encrypted messaging application to communicate with individuals throughout the United States to discuss dogfighting.  Moorefield used the name “Geehad Kennels” and Flythe used the name “Razor Sharp Kennels” to identify their respective dogfighting operations.

Between November 2018 and September 2023, the defendants and their associates used encrypted messaging to discuss how to train dogs for illegal dogfighting, exchange videos about dogfighting, and arrange and coordinate dogfights.  Moorefield and Flythe also discussed betting on dogfighting, discussed dogs that died as a result of dogfighting, and circulated media reports about dogfighters who had been caught by law enforcement.  They also conferred about how to conceal their conduct from law enforcement.

On September 6, 2023, law enforcement officers executed search warrants at Moorefield and Flythe’s residences in Maryland.  They recovered veterinary steroids, training schedules, a blood-stained carpet, and a weighted dog vest with a patch reading “Geehad Kennels.” In addition, officials seized a device consisting of an electrical plug and jumper cables used to execute dogs that lose fights. Officers also rescued 12 dogs.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Anne Arundel County Police Department, and Anne Arundel County Animal Control conducted the investigation.

AnchorUnited States v. Cesar Ramirez, et al., No. 3:22-CR-02457 (S.D. Calif.), ECS Senior Trial Attorney Stephen DaPonte and AUSA Melanie Pierson

On October 5, 2023, a court sentenced Cesar Ramirez to complete a one-year term of probation. Ramirez pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (18 U.S.C. § 371). Co-defendant Marielos Yvonne Hinnaoui was previously sentenced to one-day time served and to pay a $500 fine.

On September 19, 2022, authorities apprehended Ramirez and Hinnaoui as they attempted to smuggle the following illegal Mexican pesticides into the United States: 2 one-liter bottles of “Oberon,” 2 one-liter bottles of “Biomec,” and 1 one-liter bottle of “Tetrasan.” The defendants had concealed the bottles inside a suitcase but denied having anything to declare. These pesticides are canceled in the United States.

Those involved in clandestine marijuana grows use illegal pesticides to cultivate unregulated marijuana on both public and private land in the United States.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation.

Environmental Crimes Bulletin

Updated December 15, 2023