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Press Release

Tilghman Island Fisherman Sentenced to Prison for Illegal Fish Harvesting in the Chesapeake Bay

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Ship Captain Poached Hundreds of Thousands of Pounds of Striped Bass

William J. Lednum, 41, of Tilghman Island, Maryland, was sentenced today in federal court in Baltimore to a year and day in prison, respectively followed by six months of home detention as part of three years of supervised release, for conspiring to violate the Lacey Act and to defraud the United States through their illegal harvesting and sale of 185,925 pounds of striped bass. Lednum was also ordered to pay $498,293.40 in restitution to the State of Maryland for the damage caused to the Striped Bass fishery.  In addition, Judge Bennett ordered Lednum to pay a fine of $40,000. 

According to their plea agreements, Lednum and his co-defendant, Michael D. Hayden, were “captains” on fishing vessels owned by them, William J. Lednum Fisheries, d/b/a, Michael D. Hayden, Jr., and Michael D. Hayden, Jr., Inc.  The defendants also employed numerous “helpers” as part of this scheme, including, co-defendants Kent Sadler and Lawrence Daniel Murphy.

From at least 2007 to 2011, Hayden and Lednum engaged in a scheme to illegally poach tens of thousands of pounds of striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay in violation of Maryland regulations relating to harvest method, amounts, tagging, and reporting. In an effort to conceal their crimes, Hayden and Lednum falsified paperwork related to their harvests and submitted those falsified documents to the state of Maryland.  The state of Maryland in turn submits such paperwork to numerous Federal and interstate agencies responsible for setting harvest levels all along the eastern seaboard.  Hayden and Lednum shipped and sold the striped bass to wholesalers in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, receiving a total of $498,293.47 for the poached fish. 

The investigation in this case started in February 2011 when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources found tens of thousands of pounds of striped bass snagged in illegal, anchored nets before the season officially reopened.  The conspirators were seen on the water in the vicinity of the illegal nets. The subsequent investigation unveiled a wider criminal enterprise for which Hayden and Lednum were sentenced today. 

Co-defendants Michael D. Hayden, 43, of Tilghman Island, Lawrence “Daniel” Murphy, 37, of St. Michaels, Maryland, and Kent Conley Sadler, 31, of Tilghman Island, previously pleaded guilty to their participation in the conspiracy. Murphy is scheduled to be sentenced on December 19, 2014, Sadler is scheduled to be sentenced on January 7, 2015 and Hayden is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 27, 2015.

The investigation into this case was conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.   The prosecution was handled by Todd W. Gleason and Shennie Patel of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney P. Michael Cunningham.

Updated April 3, 2024

Press Release Number: 14-1420