Lacey Act Case Indicted
The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, Kenyen R. Brown, announces that after an approximate eighteen month undercover investigation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Alabama Department of Natural Resources, eight commercial fishermen and a seafood dealer were charged in two separate indictments by a federal grand jury, and arraigned in Mobile, Alabama today. The individuals were charged in an ongoing scheme allegedly conspiring to illegally harvest and transport reef fish, including red snapper and grouper, across state lines and falsifying documents in order to circumvent the Gulf of Mexico Individual Fishing Quota management plan. Hunter Evans, owner of Bay City Meat Co., Josh Jones, James Martin, Natalie McArdle, Matthias Kumm, David Braley, Tiffany Cooner Wilson, all from Baldwin County, and JohnWhitworth of Pensacola, Florida were charged with buying and selling illegal reef fish to undercover state and federal investigators. The investigation was furthered by business records and other documents obtained from search warrants executed in Alabama and Florida.
Most of the violations involve 16 USC ' 3372, the Lacey Act, which prohibits interstate shipment of fish or wildlife taken in violation of state law. Each Lacey Act violation carries a possible five-year prison term. This is a continuing investigation.
As in all criminal cases, the Indictment returned by the Grand Jury is only a charge and the Defendants are presumed innocent.