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Press Release

Real Estate Property Owner Sentenced in Connection withClean Water Act Violation in Florida Keys Following Hurricane Irma

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Andy Castro, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID), Atlanta Area Office, Colonel Andrew Kelly, District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Jacksonville District, and Frank Robey, Director, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, Major Procurement Fraud Unit, announced that Bonefish Holdings, LLC pled guilty and was sentenced today, before U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez, in connection with the illegal filling of federally regulated wetlands without a federal permit from USACE following Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Bonefish Holdings, LLC (“Bonefish”), pled guilty to illegally discharging fill material, which is a pollutant, into federally regulated wetlands without a permit issued by the USACE following Hurricane Irma in 2017, in violation of the Clean Water Act, Title 33, United States Code, Sections 1311(a) and 1319(c)(2)(A).  Following acceptance of the guilty plea, Judge Martinez moved immediately to sentencing.  Bonefish was sentenced to 3 years of probation, was ordered to pay a $50,000 criminal fine, and ordered to fully restore the impacted 3.73 acres of federal wetlands according to an approved Restoration Plan (estimated by the defendant to cost approximately $189,000).

Court records and a joint factual statement indicate that Bonefish owned five parcels of ocean-side land totaling approximately 7.41 acres, containing approximately 3.73 acres of federally regulated wetlands in Upper Matecumbe Key, Monroe County. Bonefish wanted to develop the site into a luxury commercial property, however, due to the presence of federally protected wetlands and the existing Village of Islamorada’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations, those plans were denied.  The defendant sought and received a Jurisdictional Determination in 2009, reconfirmed in 2013, from the USACE confirming the presence of the federally protected wetlands and making clear that fill activity could only occur with the required permits.  On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys as a major Category 4 hurricane.  The defendant hired laborers with the intention, in addition to clearing storm debris, to clear and fill the site.  The defendant’s actions were designed to intentionally take advantage of what it saw as an opportunity to remove significant additional vegetation and the filling of wetlands, in the hope of easing the path for future development of the site.

U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan stated, “The Clean Water Act serves to protect our wetlands and other natural resources in South Florida.  Wetlands, in addition to improving water quality, are important for flood and storm protection. The illegal filling of designated wetlands violates the Act and exposes those who carry out their destruction to federal prosecution.  Compliance with these regulations ensures that we can all continue to enjoy the natural beauty and important benefits of these protected areas.”

“Property owners can not engage in illegal conduct under the guise of hurricane response   to further private development goals and circumvent the regulatory process.  Property owners may remove debris from their land, but that does not allow them to go beyond cleanup and fill jurisdictional wetlands,” said Andy Castro, EPA-CID Special Agent in Charge.  “Under this plea agreement the defendant will fully restore the high-quality wetlands it illegally destroyed.”

 “Compliance and enforcement are an important component of the Corps’ Regulatory program and helps to ensure the public’s interest and our Nation’s aquatic resources are protected, said Robert Halbert, USACE Chief of Jacksonville District’s enforcement section.  “We take violations and unauthorized activities very seriously.”

“Today’s result sends a strong message that our special agents take any and all allegations of criminal acts very seriously,” said Frank Robey, Director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s, Major Procurement Fraud Unit.  “We work shoulder to shoulder with the Department of Justice and our fellow law enforcement agencies to prevent these types of violations and will aggressively continue to do so.”

U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the EPA-CID, USACE, and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command, Major Procurement Fraud.  The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer of the Economic & Environmental Crimes Section.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or at

Updated June 11, 2019