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Palm Beach Resident Sentenced for Importing 1500 Pounds of Conch from the Bahamas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 6, 2012

Palm Beach Resident Sentenced for Importing 1500 Pounds of Conch from the Bahamas

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), Southeast Division, Major Jeff Hubert, Regional Commander, South A Region, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and Noel Manheimer, Director of Marine Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), announced that Robert Fortunato, 55, of Palm Beach County, was sentenced yesterday on charges of illegally importing 1,500 pounds of conch into the United States from the Bahamas.

U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas sentenced Fortunato to one year probation and 50 hours of community service. Fortunato had previously pled guilty Counts 1 and 2 of an indictment, charging him with conspiracy and with importing and attempting to import conch into the U.S. in violation of the laws of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, in violation of the Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3371(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(1)(A). Additionally, Fortunato agreed to the forfeiture of the illegal catch and a 26' Mako vessel.

According to the charges and statements made in court during the sentencing, on February 6, 2012, Fortunato attempted to import queen conch (Strombus gigus), in violation of the possession limits for queen conch established in the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, specifically, the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction & Conservation) Regulations, Part X, Sections 47(1)(a), (b) and 48(1)(f), and Part XV, Section 70(1).

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, ICE-HSI, the U.S. Coast Guard, CBP, and FWC. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Norman O. Hemming, III and Assistant U.S. Attorney Antonia Barnes.

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 http://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 http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov

Contact: 

Alicia Valle
Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney
(305) 961-9153