NEW YORK—A man from East Meadow, New York pleaded guilty to wire fraud and to falsifying federal records after illegally harvesting more than 86,000 pounds of fluke fish.
An investigation and monitoring operation by the law enforcement arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) caught Charles Wertz Jr. engaging in illegal harvesting practices. Wertz and his company, C&C Ocean Fishery, Ltd., abused a program that entailed setting aside fish for research.
NOAA observed Wertz as he uploaded catches of fish at night. Wertz under-reported catches of fluke fish (also known as summer flounder) and submitted false catch weights and fish species to NOAA.
The value of the unreported fish was about $200,000, creating an illegal influx of the fish and affecting the market value for other fishermen. Now that the illegal catch has been uncovered, NOAA says that fishermen operating legitimately can get almost 60 percent more per pound for what they catch.
“Fish equals money, and where there is money there is greed,” stated NOAA Special Agent Matt Gilmore in a press release.
Wertz and his company will be forced to pay about $500,000 in fines, forfeit federal fishing licenses, and the company will be shut down.