Cowart Seafood, Inc. President Sentenced to 25 Months in Prison for Illegal Seafood Conspiracy and Firearms Violation
Gulfport, Miss – Lonnie M. Ray, the president of Cowart Seafood, Inc., of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, was sentenced today to 25 months in federal prison for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and illegal possession of a short-barreled shotgun, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain; Assistant Director Tracy A. Dunn with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Special Agent in Charge Louis Santiago with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Chief Keith Davis with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Office of Marine Patrol; Resident Agent in Charge Jason Denham with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and Justin Green, Special Agent in Charge, Southeast Region, U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Office of Criminal Investigation. The Lacey Act makes it unlawful to sell in interstate commerce any fish taken in violation of state law.
Ray previously pled guilty to conspiring to violate the Lacey Act by selling fish to Louisiana seafood buyers that was taken in violation of Mississippi law. According to Mississippi law, seafood dealers are required to submit information about each seafood purchase from a commercial fisherman on a form known as a trip ticket that is provided by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources ("DMR"). Ray admitted violating this requirement by failing to report seafood purchases to DMR and by buying fish from recreational fisherman in violation of state law. The Lacey Act charges against Shelley H. Ray, who was also named in the indictment, were dismissed. Lonnie Ray also pled guilty to owning a 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun, having a barrel of less than l8 inches in length, which was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.
Acting United States Attorney Brittain praised the efforts of the federal and state investigative agencies for their diligent work in the investigation of this matter.