Piney Point’s Golden Eye in the bull’s eye of Crab Cops for selling undersize crabs to Hagerstown’s Chics Seafood

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An NRP Officer measures crabs

 

PINEY  POINT, MD. — After playing a starring role in a federal sting of rockfish poaching in recent years, a St. Mary’s County seafood dealer is once again in the sights of lawmen.

According to the Maryland Natural Resources Police, which is hell-bent to enforce laws against harvesting undersized crabs, reports finding several bushels sold to a crabhouse in western Maryland that were delivered to it by the Golden Eye seafood owned by Robert Lumpkins of Piney Point.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police made good on its promise last weekend to crack down on illegal crabbing activities as part of the “Don’t Get Pinched” campaign.

From seafood shops to recreational crabbers and watermen, officers checked catches, licenses and records as they aggressively targeted violators across the State.

“Marylanders are taking our campaign seriously,” said Col. George F. Johnson IV, NRP superintendent. “The public is fed up with illegal crabbing. They are leaving comments on our Facebook page, sending us direct messages on Twitter, writing emails and calling our communications center. The tips are coming from people who have spotted illegal crabbing or seen undersized crabs at restaurants, markets and on docks.”

Don't Get PinchedAll told last weekend, NRP patrols checked 50 recreational and commercial crabbers, and seafood markets, issuing more than a dozen citations and nearly two dozen warnings.

On Friday morning, officers from three counties fanned out on Tangier Sound on a saturation patrol. In the waters of Wicomico County, they found Vaughn Edward Collins Jr., 44, of Tyaskin, retrieving crab pots in an area closed to harvest.

Officers said Collins was using a grappling hook to snag a line attached to a line of unmarked pots. A total of 60 pots were recovered by NRP.

Collins is scheduled to appear in Wicomico District Court on Oct. 1 on a charge of setting commercial crab pots in a prohibited area. If found guilty, he faces a maximum fine of $1,000.

Later on Friday, Cameron’s Seafood on the 1400 block of Dual Highway, Hagerstown received two citations after an officer found one bushel with 110 undersized crabs and another with 59 undersized crabs.

Hussein Kato Katande, 38, of Columbia is scheduled to appear in Washington County District Court on Oct. 21 on the two charges. If found guilty, he faces a maximum fine of $2,000.

A recreational crabber from Marriottsville was issued four citations on Saturday after officers stopped him on the Rhode River in Anne Arundel County.

Phillip Peter Brew, 26, was cited for violating the recreational ban on harvesting female crabs, possessing undersized crabs and crabbing after hours.

On Sunday, officers inspected seven bushels of No. 2 crabs at Chic’s Seafood in the 300 block of Summit Avenue, Hagerstown. One bushel contained 35 undersized crabs and another bushel contained 24 undersized crabs.

Richard Carroll Herzog, 53, of Hagerstown faces a maximum fine of $2,000 if found guilty of both charges in Washington County District Court.

The bill of sale indicated that the crabs were caught in Maryland and purchased from Golden Eye Seafood in the 16000 block of Piney Point Road, Piney Point. The business is owned by Robert M. Lumpkins.

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Robert Lance Lumpkins, 24, of Piney Point, was indicted for distribution of drugs on June 24, 2009 and when a jury trial was scheduled for Sept. 30, 2010, the charges were dropped by St. Mary’s County States Attorney Richard Fritz on Sept. 24, 2010.

On Dec. 26, 2009 Robert Lance Lumpkins was charged with burglary and on March 11, 2010 he pleaded guilty and received a jail term of ninety days which was suspended in a plea deal with Fritz and given unsupervised probation before judgment.

With Leonardtown attorneys Phillip Dorsey and Kevin J. McDevitt representing him in these actions as well as an appeal of a pending decision before the Potomac River Fisheries Commission regarding his seafood business, Lumpkins showed that he had no intention of taking a chance with a public defender and hired the best available criminal attorneys.  With no fine for a guilty plea to burglary and no jail time, it appears it was a good decision.

A citation negligent operation issued by the Natural Resources Police on Sept. 1, 2011 resulted in a guilty plea and a fine of $320.00 with $242.50 of the fine suspended.

On March 6, 2012, Robert Lance Lumpkins was charged with using the seafood dealer tags of another by Natural Resources Police and on August 2, 2012, he entered a guilty plea and was again given an unsupervised probation before judgment with no jail time and fine of $227.50.

Evidently the State of Maryland is worried that Robert Lance Lumpkins will make it back to shore, perhaps to pay his many fines and on May 19, 2012, they issued him a citation for not having the approved number of lifejackets on his workboat and on May 29, 2012, he was assessed a $72.50 fine and court costs.

On June 4, 2014, Robert Lance Lumpkins was issued a citation by Natural Resources Police Officer Grice for possession of undersize rockfish with the case due to be heard in District Court in St. Mary’s County on Aug. 7, 2014.

Robert Maurice Lumpkins along with nearly two dozen other watermen filed court action against the Potomac River Fisheries Commission and the State of Maryland regarding natural resources regulations which was not successful. A Judge ruled that the PRFC did have authority to set catch limitations and the action was voluntarily withdrawn on Oct. 4, 1999.

Another action against the PRFC in 2012 over regulations was again unsuccessful in St. Mary’s Circuit Court with a negative ruling by Judge David Densford and an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals denied on April 15, 2013.

On March 29, 2002 Robert Maurice Lumpkins was issued a citation by Natural Resources Police Officer R. Starliper for possessing undersized white perch and the charge was put on the stet docket with no fine assessed.

Robert Maurice Lumpkins was issued a citation for possession of one undersize rockfish on Jan. 17, 2008 and the charge was dropped by St. Mary’s States Attorney Richard Fritz on March 14, 2008.

While many other citations have been given to Lumpkins, his son, and their various seafood companies, the reigning king of indictments resulted in a conviction in federal court in the case of the United States v. Golden Eye Seafood.

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Sept. 25, 2009— Robert Lumpkins, owner of Golden Eye Seafood LLC, of St. Mary’s County, Md., was sentenced to 18 months in prison and the company was sentenced today to 3 years probation by U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte after a two day sentencing hearing in the District of Maryland, the Justice Department announced.

Additionally, they were sentenced to pay a fine of $36,000 and restitution of $164,040.50 along with a special assessment of $1,600.

Lumpkins and Golden Eye had previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate and violating the Lacey Act, by falsely recording the amount and weight of striped bass, also known as rockfish that were harvested by local fishermen and checked-in through Golden Eye from 2003 to 2007.

According to Lumpkins’ plea agreement, from at least 2003 to the present, he was a fish wholesaler, doing business from his residence in Piney Point, Md., under the name Golden Eye Seafood.  Lumpkins, through, Golden Eye, acted as a commercial striped bass check-in station for the state of Maryland.  Lumpkins admitted that on numerous occasions from 2003 to 2007, he falsely recorded the amount of striped bass that fisherman harvested and failed to record some of the striped bass that was caught or recorded a lower weight of striped bass than was actually caught.

Lumpkins and the fishermen would also falsely inflate the actual number of fish harvested.  By under-reporting the weight of fish harvested, and over-reporting the number of fish taken, the records would make it appear that the fishermen had failed to reach the maximum poundage quota for the year, but had nonetheless run out of tags.  As a result, the state would issue additional tags that could be used by the fishermen allowing them to catch striped bass above their maximum poundage quota amount.

Lumpkins and Golden Eye shipped the majority of the fish to purchasers in Maryland and in other states.  Lumpkins also purchased fish that were outside the legal size limit from an undercover agent and sold those fish to purchasers in New York, Virginia, and California.

“This prison sentence sends a strong message to commercial fishermen and wholesalers on the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. Those who illegally harvest rockfish will be investigated, prosecuted and face stiff sentences including the possibility of incarceration,” said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein stated, “If commercial fishermen obey the rules, we can all enjoy rockfish forever.  If they don’t, the rockfish population could be wiped out very quickly.  This sentence sends a message that we are serious about protecting the rockfish population in the Chesapeake Bay.”

Joseph Peter Nelson Jr., a commercial fisherman licensed in Maryland, pleaded guilty to four felony violations of the Lacey Act for participating in a scheme to illegally over harvest and under report the amount of rockfish he took from the Potomac River.  His father, Joseph Peter Nelson Sr., also pleaded guilty to one felony violation of the Lacey Act for assisting in transporting the illegally taken rockfish in interstate commerce.  The Nelsons are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22, 2009.  Jerry Decatur, Sr. and Jerry Decatur, Jr. both pleaded guilty to violations of the Lacey Act and are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, 2009, respectively.

Additionally, John Evans, a commercial fisherman who operated in St. Mary’s County and the surrounding waters of the Chesapeake Bay, pleaded guilty to a violation of the Lacey Act for overfishing striped bass and was sentenced to three months in prison followed by six months home detention.

Cannon Seafood, a Washington, D.C., fish wholesaler, its owner, Robert Moore Sr. and his son Robert Moore Jr. pleaded guilty to similar charges.  Cannon Seafood was ordered to pay restitution of $28,000 and a fine of $80,000.  Robert Moore Sr. and Robert Moore Jr., were each sentenced to four months home detention, followed by three years probation, and were ordered to pay restitution of $15,000 and $10,000, and a fine of $40,000 and $30,000, respectively.

Thomas L. Hallock, a commercial fisherman licensed in Maryland, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, for illegally overfishing rockfish and was ordered to pay restitution of $40,000 and a fine of $4,000.

Commercial fisherman Thomas Crowder was sentenced to 15 months in prison, ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and restitution of $96,250 and Charles Quade was sentenced to five months in prison, followed by five months of home detention. Quade was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and restitution of $5,000.

Keith Collins was sentenced to 13 months in prison and was ordered to pay $70,569 in restitution and a fine of $4,500. Kenneth Dent was ordered to pay $2,905 in restitution and was sentenced to 3 years probation. Crowder, Quade, Collins and Dent all pleaded guilty to Lacey Act violations for overfishing striped bass. All of the restitution is to be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to the benefit of the Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass Restoration Account.

As a result of the investigation and prosecution, two fish wholesalers and a total of 15 individuals, including today’s defendants, have been convicted of illegally harvesting and underreporting their catch of striped bass.

These cases resulted from an investigation by an interstate task force formed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland Natural Resources Police and the Virginia Marine Police, Special Investigative Unit in 2003. The task force conducted undercover purchases and sales of striped bass in 2003, engaged in covert observation of commercial fishing operations in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River area, and conducted detailed analysis of area striped bass catch reporting and commercial business sales records from 2003 through 2007.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stacy Dawson Belf and Christen Sproule for the District of Maryland and Senior Trial Attorney Wayne Hettenbach of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.

 

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