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Federal Fish Dealer Pleads Guilty in Connection with Research Set-Aside Violations

A New York federal fish dealer pled guilty to his involvement in concealing the illegal harvest of fluke as part of the Research Set-Aside program.

Guilty pleas continue to roll in as a result of an investigation initiated in July 2010 by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement into Research Set-Aside (RSA) program violations. A Brooklyn, New York, federal fish dealer is the latest to plead guilty in his role in the illegal activity.

Alan Dresner pled guilty in federal district court on April 23, 2014, to one count of wire fraud for his participation in concealing the illegal harvest of fluke as part of the Research Set-Aside Program. Though the final sentence is up to the Court, the defendant has agreed to pay between $516,000 and $577,000 in combined fines and forfeitures as well as multiple sentence conditions including relinquishment of his Federal and New York State Marine and Coastal District foodfish and crustacea dealers and shippers license. At a future sentencing hearing, the Court will decide what other penalties, if any, will be imposed.

Logan Gregory, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Law Enforcement’s Northeast Division said, “[T]hese dealers created the market for these elicit, unreported fish and their willingness to conspire with the harvesters of these fish to not report them completely undermines the system of trying to obtain the best available science to manage this fishery. The Office of Law Enforcement will continue to investigate this issue to conclusion. It's not only important to fisheries management, but also important to the law abiding industry members who rely on the availability of this fish to harvest and sell.”

"These dealers created the market for these elicit, unreported fish and their willingness to conspire with the harvesters of these fish to not report them completely undermines the system of trying to obtain the best available science to manage this fishery."

Logan Gregory, Special Agent in Charge, Northeast Division

In all, OLE agents determined that Dresner filed at least 120 false dealer reports. These violations led to criminal charges although there were also violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

“Submitted dealer reports are the primary mechanism to track fisheries landings and play a crucial role in the management of the summer flounder fishery,” said Special Agent Todd Smith. “Unreported summer flounder of this magnitude can have dire repercussions on the fish stock, as well as those people who depend on them for their livelihood. Bringing the people who commit these crimes to justice helps level the playing field for all honest stakeholders”.

Dresner, previously identified as “Fish Dealer X” in the related case of U.S. v. Anthony Joseph, helped to conceal illegal summer flounder landings made by Anthony Joseph. Dresner created dealer reports that matched landings on the fishing vessel trip reports submitted by Joseph. Dresner paid for the reported landings by check, and cash for the unreported summer flounder.

Special Agent Matt Gilmore noted, “This guilty plea illustrates that we are not only prosecuting owner/operators that violate fisheries laws, but also those dealers that conspire to launder illegal fish and enter the product into commerce. Everyone involved in the scheme should be held accountable. ” said Gilmore.

Although this case has concluded, it is part of a larger investigation into alleged abuse of the RSA Program. Expect more on this issue throughout the year.

Story by John Thibodeau, communications specialist for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. To contact him, please call 301-427-8234 or email john.thibodeau@noaa.gov.