LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hal Robbins, Special Agent in Charge, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division, Major Mike Edwards, Regional Commander, South Region Bravo, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), and Eddie McKissick, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, announced that defendants Stanley S. Saffan, Sean P. Lang, Brian M. Schick, Ralph B. Pegram, Adam Augusto, Therapy Charter Fishing Yacht, Inc., and Duchess Charter Fishing Yacht, Inc., were charged in an Indictment returned today by a Miami federal grand jury in connection with the illegal harvesting and landing of billfish, with conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and fisheries offenses, in violation of Title 16 , United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2)(A), (a)(4), (c)(1)-(2), and Title 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1343, and 1512(c)(1),(2).
According to the allegations of the Indictment, during the period from October 2003 through May 2005, the individual defendants and the companies charged, operated two charter fishing vessels, both named Therapy-IV from Haulover Inlet in North Miami Beach. Stanley S. Saffan, the owner of record of the two corporations, Sean P. Lang, and Brian M. Schick were each licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry passengers for hire, and operated the Therapy-IV vessels on charter trips. The Indictment charges that undersized billfish were boated and subsequently landed by the masters and the crew members charged. The master of the vessel in each of the charged instances failed to comply with State of Florida and federal requirements that the landings be reported to federal authorities. Further, the Indictment alleges that an undisclosed deal existed between the charter operation and a local taxidermy company, to pay the crew and boat owners for inducing anglers to sign contracts for mounting the sailfish that were caught.
The contracts were secured through the making of false representations to the anglers, and/or the omission of material facts, including, among other things, concealing the lack of required permits and licenses for the Therapy-IV vessels to harvest billfish and that illegally undersized billfish would be harvested and landed. Defendants also concealed from the customers that the sailfish need not be killed and landed to secure what would be a mere replica mount constructed from artificial materials. The coconspirators also falsely asserted that the taxidermy company needed and would use parts of landed billfish in preparing the mounts for the anglers who paid for the fishing charters.
The wire fraud charges, based on the scheme to defraud the anglers, resulted from the defendants’ practice of requiring credit card deposits of between $214.00 and $1,860.00 from the anglers, while they were still aboard the charter boat. The processing of the credit card deposits involved interstate transmissions to secure authorization from the issuing institutions.
The Indictment also charges that Stanley S. Saffan, Sean P. Lang, and Brian M. Schick with engaging in obstruction of justice in May 2005. Incorporated within the charges is a count seeking forfeiture, upon conviction, of the two Therapy vessels used in the Lacey Act violations. The conspiracy and each Lacey Act charge against the 5 individuals carry possible prison terms of 5 years. The wire fraud and obstruction of justice charges each carry a maximum sentence upon conviction of 20 years. In addition, the court may order criminal fines against the individuals of up to $250,000 for each count of conviction. The corporations each face possible criminal fines of $500,000 on each count in which they are named.
Mr. Acosta commended the coordinated investigative efforts of the NOAA Office For Enforcement, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which brought the matter to a successful conclusion. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.