Macon, GA - (WALB) Two south Georgia brothers were sentenced to prison and ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fines for illegal fish trafficking.
James and Guy Stovall own and operate Road Runner Seafood, a retail and wholesale seafood business in Colquitt.
Between August 2004 and August 2006 Road Runner made 106 purchases of fish from several Florida sellers the Stovall's knew were selling in violation of several Florida laws and regulations.
The Stovalls pleaded guilty to mislabeling fish.
The brothers were sentenced to 60 days in prison followed by 60 days home confinement, 5 years probation, and a $7,500 fine.
Here is the Press release from the Middle District Court-
SEAFOOD DEALERS AND FISHERMEN SENTENCED
Maxwell Wood, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announces the sentencing of James L. Stovall, III, age 41, of Colquitt, GA, and Guy S. Stovall, age 35, of Donalsonville, GA, on May 28, 2009, in Albany by the Honorable W. Louis Sands, United States District Judge for the Middle District of Georgia. Codefendants James Nations, Jr., age 41, of Apalachicola, FL, Jeffery B. Cannon, age 50, of Apalachicola, FL, Gary D. Brown, age 66, of Medart, FL, Eric Donald Woods, age 28, of Perry, FL, and Robbie Jenkins, age 55, of Perry, FL, were previously sentenced by Judge Sands on May 7, 2009.
Guy Stovall, Nations, Cannon and Brown pled guilty to the felony crime of conspiring to purchase and sell in interstate commerce fish with a market value in excess of $350, knowing that the fish had been taken and sold in violation of Florida laws and regulations, in violation of Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(1)(B) (The Lacey Act). These four defendants also pled guilty to an additional felony violation of the Lacey Act. Guy Stovall was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 60 days followed by 60 days home confinement, a period of probation of five years, and a $7500 fine. Nations was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 90 days followed by 90 days home confinement, a period of supervised release of two years, and a fine of $2000. Cannon was sentenced to a period of probation of two years and a fine $1000. Brown was sentenced to a period of probation of two years and a fine of $5000.
James Stovall pled guilty to two felony false labeling violations of the Lacey Act, based upon his falsely labeling and identifying imported Vietnamese catfish as grouper. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 60 days followed by 60 days home confinement, a period of probation of five years, and a $7500 fine.
Woods and Jenkins each pled guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act and were sentenced to fines of $650 and $1000, respectively.
According to the defendants' plea agreements, James Stovall and Guy Stovall own and operate Road Runner Seafood, Inc., a retail and wholesale seafood business in Colquitt, GA. Brown and Jenkins owned and operated seafood businesses in the state of Florida, and Nations, Cannon, and Woods were engaged in commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. During the time period of the conspiracy from April 2004 through August 2006, Road Runner made 106 purchases of fish from Nations, Cannon, Brown, Woods, Jenkins and other sellers. These purchases included fish known to have been taken and sold in violation of Florida laws and regulations. Frequent violations included harvesting and selling fish such as red snapper, grouper and speckled trout during closed seasons, and harvesting and selling fish without the required state licenses. Upon each purchase, Guy Stovall would either fail to submit required records to the state of Florida or would submit false records which listed a different species of fish from the actual species which had been illegally sold.
Road Runner also purchased a relatively inexpensive imported catfish fillet commonly known as swai, sutchi or sutchi catfish (the scientific name being pangasius hypothalmus). However, James Stovall would invoice the fillets as a different species of fish, primarily grouper. He knew that the imported fillets were not in fact grouper. When law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Road Runner's business, they discovered what they suspected to be sutchi catfish for sale in the retail section of the business. The fish was advertised for sale as "imported grouper" and "imported grouper pengoseous." Samples of the fish were tested at a laboratory and identified as sutchi catfish (pangasius hypothalmus).
The case was investigated by agents with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission(FWC), and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney K. Alan Dasher. Inquiries regarding the case should be directed to Ms. Sue McKinney, Public Affairs Specialist, United States Attorney's Office at (478) 621-2602.