Commercial Fisherman Charged with Witness Tampering Related to an Investigation into the Illegal Harvesting of Striped Bass
Michael D. Hayden Jr., 41, of Tilghman’s Island, Md., was arrested yesterday on charges of witness tampering and retaliation in connection with an investigation of felony Lacey Act violations related to the illegal harvesting of striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay.
The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division; Regional Special Agent in Charge Honora Gordon of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement; and Joseph P. Gill, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Hayden is a commercial fisherman licensed in the state of Maryland and operates commercial fishing vessels on the Chesapeake Bay. During an investigation of the illegal harvesting of striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay, agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and the Maryland Natural Resources Police learned that Hayden allegedly attempted to manipulate some witnesses’ testimony while trying to prevent the testimony of others. The criminal complaint alleges that in at least one incident, Hayden threatened to retaliate against a potential witness he believed to be cooperating with investigators.
If convicted, Hayden faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of four counts of witness tampering and witness retaliation. Hayden is expected to have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore today.
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
U.S. Attorney Rosenstein and Acting Assistant Attorney General Dreher thanked the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for their work in the investigation and the United States Marshals Service for executing the arrest. The case is being jointly prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and the Environmental Crimes Section of the United States Department of Justice.