Fishermen indicted in federal court for alleged fraud, violation of herring laws face September trial

Tue, 08/22/2023 - 10:45am

    PORTLAND – A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 23 in U.S. District Court regarding trial scheduling and a motion to continue for the fishermen and seafood dealers who were indicted in 2022 with conspiracy, mail fraud, and obstruction of justice in connection with a multi-year scheme to sell unreported Atlantic herring and falsify fishing records. 

    Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Sept. 5. The trial is anticipated for September and expected to last two weeks.

    Named as defendants in the hearing with Judge George Z. Singal presiding are Glenn Robbins, 76, of Eliot; Ethan Chase, 46, of Portsmouth, N.H.; Neil Herrick, 48, of Rockland; Stephen Little, 58, of Warren; Jason Parent, 51, of Owls Head; Dustin Reed, 41, of Waldoboro; Glenn Lawrence, 70, of Owls Head; Samuel Olson, 73, of Cushing; the Western Sea, Inc. of Rockland; New Moon Fisheries, of Waldoboro; and Sam’s Seafood of Cushing, according to the court document.

    According to the indictment, between June 2016 and September 2019, the owner, captains, and crew aboard the fishing vessel Western Sea sold more than 2.6 million pounds of Atlantic herring that was not reported to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The indictment alleges that members of the crew were paid directly by fish dealers and lobster vessel operators for the unreported herring.

    Atlantic herring is defined as a small schooling fish that serves as a primary bait for Maine’s lobster industry.

    Maine herring regulations require harvester vessels to send an email to the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) three hours prior to landing with information regarding the harvester, vessel and total catch. NOAA relies upon accurate reports to set polices designed to ensure a sustainable fishery, requires all dealers to submit, on a weekly basis, electronic dealer reports detailing information about the fish purchased, the federal agency said.

    In September 2019, the Maine Patrol was surveilling the Western Sea in an attempt to quantify how much herring the fishing vessel had harvested and offloaded in Rockland. Court documents state that the Marine Patrol witnessed the Double Eagle pull up alongside the Western Sea at the Rockland Fish Pier and receive herring, which was later offloaded in Stonington.

    The attorney for Lawrence filed a motion in May asking the court to suppress all of his statements made in 2019 to Maine Marine Patrol Officer in a trial. Lawrence is a commercial fisherman who owns the fishing vessel the Double Eagle.

    Lawrence argued that the statements he made to the Maine Marine Patrol during his three September 2019 interviews were conducted in violation of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment Rights.

    The motion to suppress was denied by the judge in June. Lawrence’s attorney filed a motion for reconsideration which was also denied by the judge in August.

    On Aug. 9, the attorney for Samuel Olson and Sam’s Seafood filed a consent motion to continue trial due to Olson’s cardiac issues and ongoing evaluation and treatment. 

    Maine Marine Patrol Colonel Jay Carroll said in January that, “the charges are the result of a significant investigation by Maine Marine Patrol with support from the Maine State Police to uncover violations that cheat other harvesters and dealers who comply with quota and reporting requirements.”

    He said: “By violating quota limits and reporting requirements, these violations also undermine efforts designed to rebuild this critically important stock.”

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