Monday, March 26, 2012

U.S. v. Oceanpro Industries, Ltd.

Mar 23: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, Case No. 10-5239, 10-5284 and 10-5285. Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. 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 wildlife 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.
    The Appeals Court ruled, "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." In its conclusion, the Appeals Court added, "To qualify as victims, Maryland and Virginia need not even have been 'owners' of the striped bass, although they were after the fish were illegally caught; they merely had to have interests that were 'harmed' as a result of the defendants' criminal conduct. Because we have concluded that their interests were indeed harmed, the States were victims and therefore properly awarded restitution."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Wildlife, #CA4]
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