SAN FRANCISCO – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced that North Coast Fisheries Inc. (North Coast), along with its President, Michael Lucas, 40, of Santa Rosa, California, were sentenced late yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer for making false statements regarding the amount of groundfish they were purchasing from fishermen. The company was placed on four years probation and ordered to pay a fine of approximately $84,000. Lucas was sentenced to one month in prison and is scheduled to surrender on September 28, 2005.
North Coast is a commercial fish receiver and dealer in Santa Rosa that purchased federally-regulated groundfish from fishermen. State and federal law requires that fish receivers, such as North Coast, fill out and submit fish landing receipts in order to report all landings of groundfish received and ultimately purchased from fishermen. In pleading guilty, North Coast and Mr. Lucas admitted that North Coast employees as part of their regular practice submitted a false fish landing receipt to the California Department of Fish & Game.
North Coast pleaded guilty on March 1, 2005, to making a false statement and Michael Lucas, its President, also pleaded guilty on March 1, 2005, for aiding and abetting in the offense. The term groundfish includes several different species of rockfish, sablefish, petrale sole, and lingcod.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which includes federal, state and local government officials, manages groundfish along the West Coast. The PFMC sets quotas or “trip limits,” which are the amounts that a fishing vessel may catch of a certain species. The trip limits ensure that fisheries along the West Coast are not over-fished. The trip limits set by the PFMC vary depending on the species of fish. Federal agents of the National Marine Fisheries Service rely on accurate landing receipts to enforce trip limits on the amounts of fish that can be lawfully caught under federal regulations. The PFMC also relies upon accurate landing receipts in setting trip limits. Federal law prohibits filing false landing receipts.
North Coast, Michael Lucas, and Peter Pomilia (a former North Coast manager) were initially indicted on November 2, 2004. Mr. Pomilia pleaded guilty to submitting false information to a Marine Fisheries Council, in violation of 16 U.S.C. § 1857, and was sentenced to 3 months home detention, 120 hours of community service, and a fine of $5,000 on May 4, 2005.
Stacey Geis is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of a 3-year investigation by agents of the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.
A copy of this press release and related court filings may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can .
Electronic court filings and further procedural and docket information are available at (click on the link for “to retrieve documents from the court”).
Judges’ calendars with schedules for upcoming court hearings can be viewed on the court’s website at www.cand.uscourts.gov.