NOAA Seeking $25,000 Fines
and 100 Day Suspension
in Fraud Case
NMFS Northeast Region
N E W SGloucester, Mass. -- NOAA is seeking $25,000 in fines and a 100-day suspension of federal fishing rights from an East Islip man and an East Quogue company for multiple violations of federal fishing rules.
Grace Ann Industries, Inc., owner of the fishing vessel Grace Ann, and the vessel's operator, Richard P. Gallo, are alleged in the four-count notice to have falsified or otherwise compromised information on required trip reports and to have illegally landed groundfish by taking trips without reporting into the days-at-sea program, a major part of the effort to rebuild groundfish stocks.
"This is another in a series of false reporting cases," said Mitch MacDonald, NOAA enforcement attorney in charge of the case. "Reporting violations make it harder to determine how well a fishery management plan is working and can mask other illegal activity," he said. "For example, we believe these reporting violations hid days-at-sea violations," MacDonald said. "Breaking the rules hurts everyone who is fishing legally as much as it damages the coastwide effort to rebuild stocks."
These alleged violations involve rules governing harvest of a variety of common northeastern commercial fish species, from groundfish to whiting, squid, and mackerel. The rules are intended to monitor landings against annual targets, to assure accurate information on which to base fishery management decisions, and to rebuild depleted stocks by limiting the number of days that vessels can pursue them.
Much of this case was derived from the NOAA Fisheries investigation of Joseph H. Carter, Inc., a major seafood dealer operating from Fulton Fish Market. As a result of that investigation, Carter has been charged with large-scale non-reporting and with submitting false reports and is facing potential $1.72 million civil penalty and a five-year ban on purchasing federally regulated species. Carter is alleged to have failed to report, or to have falsely reported landings of fish caught in federal fisheries, including purchases of a significant portion of the summer flounder quota allocated to the State of New York.
Gallo and Grace Ann Industries, Inc. are respondents in one of the cases involving sales to Carter. Another fish dealer from a different region and up to seven additional New York vessels are expected to be charged in the near future in relation to the Carter case.
Two other owner/operators charged to date were from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Emilio Spinola of the fishing vessel St. Mary and Carlo Moceri of the fishing vessel Morning Star were charged previously, admitted the violations, were forced to sell their vessels, paid civil penalties, and were permanently removed from commercial fishing.
In another New York case, George M. Miller of Montauk, is alleged to have falsified or otherwise compromised information on required trip reports, to have made false statements to investigators, and to have asked a fish dealer to destroy evidence of his violations. The government is seeking $70,000 in fines and a 15-month suspension of fishing rights in that case.
These violations are civil matters, not criminal, and any hearing would be before an administrative law judge. That judge's decision may be appealed to the NOAA Administrator and through the federal court system. If the administrative law judge finds for the government, he or she may also determine a civil penalty up to a maximum of $110,000 for each count charged and may sanction the vessel and operator permits, including permanently revoking them.