St. Michaels Fisherman Pleads Guilty To Attempting To Illegally Harvest Fish In The Chesapeake Bay
Worked on Ships that Poached Hundreds of Thousands of Pounds of Striped Bass
Baltimore, Maryland – Lawrence “Daniel” Murphy, age 37, of St. Michaels, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to attempting to violate the Lacey Act by trafficking in illegally harvested striped bass.
The plea agreement was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division Sam Hirsch; Colonel George F. Johnson IV, Superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police; and Honora Gordon, Regional Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
According to his plea agreement, Murphy was a “helper” on a vessel owned and operated by Michael Hayden and William Lednum. Murphy admitted that from 2007 to 2011, Hayden and Lednum, with Murphy’s assistance, engaged in a scheme to illegally poach hundreds of thousands of pounds of striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay in violation of Maryland regulations relating to harvest method, amounts, tagging, and reporting. Murphy admitted to being on one of these vessels on the morning of February 1, 2011, when he and his co-conspirators were caught by law enforcement attempting to retrieve striped bass caught before the season opened and by using illegally weighted and/or anchored gill nets left in the water overnight.
Murphy knew that Hayden and Lednum shipped and sold the illegally harvested striped bass to wholesalers in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.
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.
Murphy faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000fine. U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III, has scheduled sentencing for December 19, 2014.
Michael D. Hayden, age 42, and William J. Lednum, age 41, both of Tilghman Island, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme and are scheduled to be sentenced on November 4 and 5, 2014, respectively. Another helper employed by Hayden and Lednum, co-defendant Kent Conley Sadler, age 31, also of Tilghman Island, previously pleaded guilty to his participation in the conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 21, 2014.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Todd W. Gleason and Shennie Patel of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney P. Michael Cunningham, who prosecuted the case.