Pirate Poachers of the Chesapeake: Lumpkins Seafood Boat Caught Red-Handed AGAIN with Undersize Fish
PINEY POINT, MD. — What is about being a pirate poacher of the Chesapeake Bay that attracts the Lumpkins family like moths to a flame?
The Maryland Natural Resources Police report that an illegal fishing operation underway in recent days at the mouth of the Patuxent River resulted in the seizure of twenty-five percent of the catch of croakers found in the possession of the operators of a commercial fishing vessel owned by Lumpkins & Sons Fisheries LLC of Piney Point, Md.
The Lumpkins enjoy a colorful past of a revolving door of federal and state fisheries laws including federal convictions. Maryland Natural Resources Police officers are investigating an illegal commercial fishing operation at the mouth of the Patuxent River in St. Mary’s County that resulted in the harvesting of thousands of pounds of undersized croaker.
On May 12, 2015, Natural Resources Police report that officers received a complaint about a large number of dead fish floating near Town Creek, a tributary of the Patuxent. Searching the area, officers saw a vessel, the McKenzie Leigh, unloading fish at a nearby pier.
The vessel was holding about 14,000 pounds of croaker and other species of fish, many appearing to be undersized. Seventeen NRP officers from four counties were assigned to measure the entire catch, an effort that took 12 hours. The fish were kept under refrigeration in trucks provided by the waterman.
Approximately 3,500 pounds—or 25 percent—of the catch were found to be undersized. Those fish were seized and returned to the water.
Three fishermen and two men offloading the fish were questioned. NRP officers will be reviewing the evidence with the State’s Attorney’s Office in St. Mary’s County. Charges are pending, say police.
According to Coast Guard records, the McKenzie Leigh is registered to the Lumpkins fishing business along with the commercial fishing vessels Middle Ground and Golden Eye.
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.”
MCKENZIE LEIGH (681254)
USCG ID 681254
Length 50 feet / 15.2 meters
Depth 4.6 feet / 1.4 meters
Breadth 13.2 feet / 4 meters
Gross Tonnage 21
Net Tonnage 17
Name MCKENZIE LEIGH
Service COMMERCIAL FISHING VESSEL
Trade Coastwise Unrestricted, Fishery
Hull Material FRP (FIBERGLASS)
Builder HARRY WHITE BOATS
Port PINEY POINT MD
Owner LUMPKINS & SONS FISHERIES LLC