Long Island Fisherman Indicted for Conspiracy and Fraud
Charges also included Falsification of Federal Records
WASHINGTON—A federal grand jury in Central Islip, New York, returned an indictment today charging Thomas Kokell, a fisherman from East Northport, New York, with conspiracy, mail fraud and falsification of federal records, the Justice Department announced.
The charges stem from a fraudulent scheme designed to cover up the illegal harvest of fluke that was purportedly taken under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Research Set-Aside Program. According to the indictment, the conspiracy between Kokell and a fish dealer, who previously pleaded guilty, involved the preparation and filing of dozens of false Fishing Vessel Trip Reports and electronic dealer reports. The conspiracy was alleged to have hidden the overharvest of approximately 196,000 pounds of fluke valued at over $400,000.
The defendant will be arraigned in Central Islip at a yet to be scheduled date. An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The case was investigated by agents of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. The case is being prosecuted by Christopher Hale and Brendan Selby of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.