Pirate Poachers of the Chesapeake: Joe Sullivan sets record for being first oyster farm burglar

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Pirate Poachers of the Chesapeake First Pirate Raids of Oyster Farms Laid on Drug Dealer

ST. INIGOES, MD. — Joseph Franklin Sullivan, 20, of St. Inigoes, who had so much cocaine he knew not what to do, and so cops say, he stuffed some in his shoe.

Pirate Poacher Joseph Franklin Sullivan St. Mary's and Calvert Oyster Farm raid

Pirate Poacher Joseph Franklin Sullivan St. Mary’s and Calvert Oyster Farm raid

That sneaker cocaine incident took place when cops raided his drug dealer’s residence in 2015; now Sullivan has been charged with theft of oysters from a private aquaculture site off the Potomac River late last year. Sullivan was served on Jan. 15, 2016, at the St. Mary’s County Detention Center, where he is being held pending trial on theft, drug and escape charges.

Earlier in the day, six members of the Natural Resources Police dive team searched a stretch of Smith Creek and a pier in front of Sullivan’s home on Jutland Drive, on Smith Creek, and recovered oysters, oyster shell and seed bags of the type used in aquaculture operations. The investigation is continuing.

This action of a criminal nabbed while he was allegedly ripping off an oyster farmer, is the first time the Natural Resources Police has pursued an aquaculture case under criminal, rather than natural resources, law.

Circle C Oyster Ranch map showing operations in Scotland, Md.

Circle C Oyster Ranch map showing operations in Scotland, Md.

The thefts occurred from a shellfish lease in Calvert Bay. The lease, started in 2012, is farmed by J.D. Blackwell of 38-Degree North Oysters. On Nov. 24, Blackwell reported that eight cages were emptied of between 20 and 40 bushels of oysters. On Dec. 8, John Anthony Carbone of the Point Lookout Oyster Co., who also works on the lease, reported the theft of additional oysters from the area.

Oyster bag from 38 degree North

Oyster bag from 38 degree North of the type stolen allegedy by Sullivan.

Blackwell, and his business partner, Chip Cropper, are both longtime entrepreneurs who began a windsurf board business in the area thirty years ago. Now they have leased river bottom to raise oysters commercially, in what they call the ideal environment on the east coast for the bivalves. The company cites 38-degree temperature water as the perfect way to raise oysters.

Oyster stew at Chincoteaque Island. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Oyster stew at Chincoteague Island. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

As the Chesapeake Bay had endless oysters at the time it was mapped by English explorer, Capt. John Smith, the estuary was referred to as the Great Shell Bay, due to the bottom being filled with ‘white gold’.

The first oyster hatchery in the area was built on St. Jerome’s Creek in 1974 and proved that oyster spat could be raised commercially.

Circle C Oyster Ranch is located on the southern prong of the St. Jerome’s Creek in Scotland and was the chief innovator on the Chesapeake at raising oysters and selling homeowners special racks of oysters. The oyster racks placed off of piers or in special floats could see significant growth of oysters from spat and qualified homeowners for a special tax credit.  Founded by Richard Peltz, Circle C Ranch has also discovered new ways of cleaning the water of Lake Lariat in Calvert County, of deadly pollutants using clams.

This oyster float operation is located on the Virginia Eastern Shore. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

This oyster float operation is located on the Virginia Eastern Shore. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Sullivan is charged with two counts of theft of property worth between $10,000 and $100,000; one count of theft of property worth between $1,000 and $10,000; taking of leased oyster without permission; and destroying aquaculture.

Oyster pirates have been terrorizing the Chesapeake Bay for nearly 200 years, with full-scale wars taking place between Maryland and Virginia watermen fighting over the resource.

The Criminal Intent patent tonging in a permitted area on the Patuxent River. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

The Criminal Intent patent tonging in a permitted area on the Patuxent River. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

As oysters have diminished over the last fifty years, new and stricter rules on harvesting have largely been obeyed by the great majority of watermen. But a strong and hearty contingent of pirate poachers, who often have extensive experience in drug dealing, grand theft, and burglary, have been operating at night raiding oyster sanctuaries or in broad daylight. Federal law enforcement operations have targeted several St. Mary’s County watermen and seafood operations, most notably, the Lumpkins Seafood in Piney Point and Thomas Crowder, the former chief of the Second District Vol. Fire Dept., who was convicted and sent to federal prison in a rockfish sting.

Crowder was released from prison on July 16, 2010.  Crowder was convicted of knowingly participating in a scheme to make false records in reporting his catch of rockfish for sale in interstate commerce and did so for a period of more than four years.

image descriptionThe investigation is being reviewed by the St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney and a court date has not been set. If found guilty of all five charges, Sullivan could receive a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of $27,000.

 image descriptionSt. Mary’s Sheriff Capt. Daniel Alioto reported on Sept. 10, 2015, that Detectives began making undercover purchases of cocaine from Javon Lyzell Dickens, 24, of California, Md., in various locations throughout St. Mary’s County. A search and seizure warrant was obtained and executed on his California residence. Detectives recovered marijuana, related paraphernalia, “crack cocaine” (street value $1,300), a digital scale with cocaine residue, more than $300.00 in cash and two cellular phones.

A 2002 Ford Explorer was also seized.

A co-conspirator, identified as Courtney Ellen Lacey, 21, and Dickens were arrested and additional charges are expected. 

Alioto reported that Dickens was currently out on bail awaiting a trial dealing drugs. The trial was held on March 4, 2016 when Dickens faced an indictment charging him with possession and distribution of cocaine.  St. Mary’s County States Attorney Richard Fritz agreed to a plea deal that dismissed the charge of dealing cocaine and allowed Dickens to plead guilty to the cocaine charge. The Deal: 4 years in prison with three years and six months suspended, resulting a mere six months in the local jail and no fine.

While in the St. Mary’s County jail, Dickens was charged with possession of contraband in the jail, on Jan. 10, 2016. The attorney for Dickens was none other than the high-priced criminal defense attorney Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., who is also the President of the Maryland Senate. Senator Miller entered his appearance for the drug dealer on Dec. 4, 2015.

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A third suspect, Joseph Franklin Sullivan, 20, was inside the residence, and police say that they found a quantity of cocaine in his shoe.

One of the Lumpkins Seafood gang is Robert Lance Lumpkins, of Hodges Court in Valley Lee, Md., who was cited on Sept. 17, 2014 with possession of undersized male crabs by NRP Officer Cary. On Feb. 4, 2015, in a plea deal with Charles County States Attorney Anthony Covington, Lumpkins was fined ZERO dollars and given no jail time.

Lumpkins was cited by NRP Officer Grice with possession of undersized Rockfish on June 4, 2014. In a plea deal with St. Mary’s County States Attorney Richard Fritz, Lumpkins was fined $102.50 in St. Mary’s County District Court on Aug. 7, 2014 with probation before judgment for period of only one month in spite of his record of violations.

Lumpkins was cited by the Natural Resources Police with possession of an unmarked gill net aboard a vessel on Feb. 19, 2014.  In District Court in Anne Arundel County, Lumpkins was fined$477.50 and put on probation before judgment, unsupervised.

Lumpkins was indicted by a Grand Jury for distribution of drugs and possession on April 28, 2010.  Represented by criminal defense attorney Kevin J. McDevitt of Leonardtown, Lumpkins was able to arrange a plea deal with St. Mary’s County States Attorney Richard Fritz on Sept. 24, 2010. The deal dropped the distribution charge and sent Lumpkins to jail for possession for 10 days, with credit for time served of 10 days and 3 years of probation. On Feb. 17, 2012, court records show that Lumpkins violated the terms of his probation and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Lumpkins was arrested by St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Deputy Michael A. Licausi on Dec. 26, 2009, for fourth-degree burglary and with attorney McDevitt representing him, Lumpkins was able to work a plea deal with Fritz where he entered a guilty plea to the crime and got a sentence of 90 days, all of which was suspended.


The following is contact information for email addresses for States Attorneys of the counties that surround the Chesapeake Bay and are often presented with citations and violations to prosecute for Maryland’s Outlaw watermen. They are all elected officials and have complete and total control as to whether or not to prosecute Pirate Poachers of the Chesapeake or to dump the charges.  Be sure to contact any of these officials with your views on the matter.


SCOTT D. SHELLENBERGER, Baltimore County State’s Attorney (Democrat)

Email: statesattorney@baltimorecountymd.gov

State’s Attorney, Baltimore County, since January 2, 2007.

Prosecutor, Office of State’s Attorney, Baltimore County, 1982-93 (former chief, child abuse/sexual assault division).

EDWARD DORSEY ELLIS ROLLINS III, Cecil State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: cflaugher@ccgov.org

State’s Attorney, Cecil County, since January 3, 2011.

MATTHEW A. MACIARELLO, Wicomico County State’s Attorney (Republican),
e-mail: mmaciarello@wicomicocounty.org

State’s Attorney, Wicomico County, since January 3, 2011. Deputy State’s Attorney, Wicomico County, November 8, 2010, to January 3, 2011.

Scott Patterson, Talbot County States Attorney (Democrat): State’s Attorney, Talbot County, 1983-86, and since 1989. Assistant State’s Attorney, Montgomery County, 1972-75. Special Assistant to Attorney General, 1975. Assistant State’s Attorney, Anne Arundel County.

LANCE G. RICHARDSON, Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: lrichardson@qac.org

State’s Attorney, Queen Anne’s County, since January 5, 2009. Assistant Public Defender, Queen Anne’s County, 1996-2003. Deputy State’s Attorney, Queen Anne’s County

HARRIS P. MURPHY, Kent County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: hmurphy@kentgov.org, State’s Attorney, Kent County, since January 5, 2015.

Daniel Powell, Somerset County States Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: dpowell@co.somerset.md.us

State’s Attorney, Somerset County, since January 3, 2011.  Former Assistant State’s Attorney, Baltimore County. Former Assistant State’s Attorney, Dorchester County. Former Assistant State’s Attorney, Somerset County. County Administrator, Somerset County, 2007-09.

JONATHAN G. NEWELL, Caroline County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: jnewell@carolinesao.org

State’s Attorney, Caroline County, since 2003.

Assistant Public Defender, Caroline County, 1999-2001. Deputy State’s Attorney, Kent County

BEAU H. OGLESBY, Worcester County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: boglesby@co.worcester.md.us

State’s Attorney, Worcester County, since January 3, 2011.

Assistant State’s Attorney, Wicomico County, 1997-2007. Deputy State’s Attorney, Caroline County, 2009-10.

WILLIAM H. JONES Dorchester County States Attorney, (Democrat)

e-mail: wjones@docogonet.com

State’s Attorney, Dorchester County, since June 19, 2009. Assistant State’s Attorney, 2002-04. Senior Assistant State’s Attorney, 2004-07. Interim State’s Attorney, April 11, 2007, to June 19, 2009.

WES ADAMS, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: aacsao@aacounty.org

State’s Attorney, Anne Arundel County, since January 5, 2015.  Assistant State’s Attorney, Prince George’s County, 1998-2000. Assistant State’s Attorney, Baltimore City, 2000-08. Chief, Homicide Division, State’s Attorney’s Office, Prince George’s County, 2008-15 (assistant chief, 2008). Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, 2006-07.

ANTHONY B. (TONY) COVINGTON, State’s Attorney (Democrat)

e-mail: covingtt@charlescounty.org

State’s Attorney, Charles County, since January 3, 2011. Deputy State’s Attorney, Charles County, 2008-.  Assistant State’s Attorney, Prince George’s County, 1991-93. Assistant State’s Attorney, Charles County, 1993-97.

LAURA L. MARTIN, Calvert County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: martinll@co.cal.md.us

State’s Attorney, Calvert County, since January 2007.  Assistant State’s Attorney, Prince George’s County, 1989-98 (assistant chief, homicide division, 1994-98). Deputy State’s Attorney, Calvert County, September 1998 to December 2005.

RICHARD D. FRITZ, St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: richard.fritz@co.saint-marys.md.us

State’s Attorney, St. Mary’s County, since December 1998. Former Assistant State’s Attorney and Deputy State’s Attorney, St. Mary’s County.

JOSEPH I. CASSILLY, Harford County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: statty@harfordcountymd.gov

State’s Attorney, Harford County, since January 1983. Assistant State’s Attorney, Harford County, 1977-82


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