Recreational fisherman to be sentenced for lying about red snapper he caught
Man pleaded guilty after $30k haul
Updated 10:57 pm, Tuesday, November 28, 2017
The tall tales about a 2016 fishing trip have caught up with Jacob Brown.
His crime was not braggadocio but telling a falsehood about a tremendous haul.
On Wednesday, the Lake Jackson man is expected to be sentenced by a federal judge for lying about a $30,000 haul of red and vermilion snapper he said was not for sale but was meant to supply an Easter fish fry. He later admitted the fish were to be sold to restaurants.
He faces a maximum term of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. A co-defendant, Jamal Marshall, 36, of Freeport, is set for sentencing on Dec. 15.
Brown, 35, pleaded guilty on Aug. 24 to catching 488 red snapper and 154 vermilion snapper in violation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) catch limits. The fish had a market value of $30,000.
NOAA has set strict limits for recreational fisherman since the population of red snapper, the most popular reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico, was depleted from over-fishing.
During open season for the prized fish, a recreational anglers can harvest up to 10 vermilion and up to two red snapper per trip.
According to court documents, in February and March of 2016, Marshall paid Brown $200 per trip on two occasions to help catch fish which Marshall sold to restaurants in Houston.
Brown, Marshall and a third recreational fisherman, who is not named, headed out into federal waters again on Mar. 26, 2016. On their trip back to shore, their vessel was stopped by a U.S. Coast Guard boat conducting a routine water safety inspection.
The Coast Guard personnel asked them the purpose of their trip. The men said they'd been fishing. The officials asked what was in the five big coolers. The men said it was just ice and drinks. The officers asked them to follow them to shore so they could complete their inspection.
On shore, the officials opened the coolers and two other built-in storage compartments and found them packed with red-colored fish.
Law enforcement from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and NOAA arrived and inventoried the fish. Brown and the others admitted they caught the fish, but submitted a voluntary written statement saying they'd intended to donate them to a church fish fry for Easter Sunday and had no plans to sell them. According to the documents, they also lied that they had never illegally caught fish and sold them to local restaurants.
Marshall admitted he had previously sold $35,000 worth of fish to Houston-area restaurants, according to Shane Waller, a trial attorney prosecuting the case for the environmental crimes section of the U.S. Department of Justice.