Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

NEWS March 28, 2012

Three judges for the 4th district appeals court, covering Maryland and Virginia and DC, upheld the conviction of Ocean Pro Industries for an illegal sale of striped bass. Judge Neimeyer, writing for the unanimous three judge opinion, said that Maryland and Virginia had sufficient interest in striped bass so as to be able to impose restitution payments on the company. 

The summary of the opinion from Judge Niemeyer:

Oceanpro Industries, Ltd., doing business as "Profish, Ltd." ("Oceanpro"), a seafood wholesaler in the District of Columbia, and two Oceanpro employees, Timothy Lydon (officer and fish buyer) and Benjamin Clough, III (fish buyer), were convicted for purchasing untagged and oversized striped bass, in violation of the Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(2)(A) (prohibiting the purchase in interstate commerce of fish or wild-life sold in violation of state law). 

Oceanpro and Clough were also convicted for giving a false statement to federal law enforcement officers during the course of the investigation of the crimes, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. In addition to imposing fines and prison sentences, the district court ordered the three defendants, jointly and severally, to pay Maryland and Virginia $300,000 in restitution, to be divided equally between the States.

On appeal, Oceanpro and Clough challenge the District of Maryland's venue for the false statement offense because the false statement was made at the offices of Oceanpro in the District of Columbia, not in Maryland. In addition, all of the defendants contend that the order of restitution to the States was improper because the States did not have a sufficient interest in the illegally caught fish so as to make them "victims," as is required for receiving the benefit of a restitution order.

We reject both arguments, concluding that venue for the false statement charge was proper in the District of Maryland and that Maryland and Virginia's interest in striped bass was sufficient to make the States "victims" and therefore to justify an award to them of restitution. Accordingly, we affirm.

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