Pirate Poachers of the Chesapeake: New raids on oyster sanctuaries; profiles of culprits reveal they are simply criminals in every respect

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Included with his latest in the series of special reports on the Pirate Poachers of the Chesapeake is a video produced by and for Maryland Watermen and a video produced by THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY of watermen working to bring up oysters from the Patuxent River.

Bats and Pirate Poachers Come out at Night on Chesapeake

Letter to the Editor:

Kris Graves made several remarks on THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY Facebook page prior to being deleted and banned. Edited versions of his remarks without not so subtle threats are included here:

 To the Editor:
My record speaks for it self I’ve served in the Marine. Corps and have never gotten in trouble before can’t believe I have served for peoples right to say things like
This this page is a disgrace to this country

God for bid I got caught up in something I didn’t have controll over my record is literally clean and u all
Make it out to be I just killed somebody.
 I’m not starting anything I’m a. Worker on a boat I’m not responsible for where it takes me.

Kris Graves

(Editor’s Note: Actually, for a grown man and former U. S. Marine, Graves is old enough to know what he was doing; he knows that actions have consequences. He put himself in the same boat with a career criminal, out in the dark of night to rob an oyster sanctuary, much like an accessory to a burglary of a home or store. Since Graves admits he was a worker, he has also admitted to being a paid co-conspirator and in essence has admitted his guilt, about which the prosecutor ought to be delighted. Graves ought to be the first one to knock on the door of the prosecutor to ask to be a State’s witness before Collins throws him under the bus. First one to cooperate and get the deal gets the easiest treatment from the States Attorney.)


Pirate Poachers Raid Sanctuary during Dead of Night

By Ken Rossignol


News and Commentary

Introduction: Just like Bats, which are rodents with wings, the pirate poachers of the Chesapeake scurry around at night. Why a yellow bat?  That is the color of most of these cowards who are too cowardly to earn a living the honest way and often steal, assault others and burglarize property.  A few in this series of articles are also drug dealers.  What they are really are not — are watermen. They are simply criminals.

The following is the report of recent citations issued by the Natural Resources Police and a criminal profile of those accused of raiding oyster sanctuaries. The fact that most Maryland and Virginia watermen are law-abiding folks cannot be stressed too much. This is the story of criminals who are coddled by Maryland officials and seldom does the public get any justice out of the awful system of the Maryland Judiciary. If you think of over-paid stuffed shirts doing little to earn their paychecks, that just about sums up the situation. There are exceptions, of course.

The lawless and piratical instincts of outlaw watermen of the Chesapeake Bay may very well be inherited from the vicious and bloodthirsty pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries and certainly dates back to the 19th and 20th century oyster wars.

Oyster pirates fired cannon and rifles at Maryland Oyster Police and in 1879 Virginia sent a fleet carrying armed militia to capture and sink Maryland oyster pirates that had invaded Virginia waters in the dead of night.

Two years ago, Maryland’s General Assembly established oyster sanctuaries in various locations in Maryland waters in an attempt to reverse a one hundred year trend of diminishing bivalves.

In spite of the new laws setting aside areas of oysters for replenishment, a determined segment of the Maryland watermen and seafood industry has repeatedly violated the boundaries of the sanctuaries.

Many of the oyster pirates poaching from sanctuaries have done so under the cover of darkness and used many tricks of deception such as traveling with their navigational lights turned off. In addition, they have taken their boats out in dense fog to raid the sanctuaries.

It appears that the criminal element among Maryland watermen will simply not be denied.

Maryland State Police have deployed helicopters with Natural Resource Police officers using satellite markings of the boundaries to detect the pirates poaching oysters.  NRP officers have been working at night and using their weapons of deception to fool the greedy and criminal pirate poachers.

Each week, the criminal element continues to appear in new raids around the clock.

News stories on THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY website have been receiving tens of thousands of views from the public and scores of haughty and scornful posts from the supporters of the criminals have been on the Facebook page.

The outlaws and their gangs of crooked pals harass and demean the citizens who post their views that boats and gear should be confiscated, heavy fines laid down and jail time be given to offenders.

The sacred cow outlaws believe that they have a right to take what they want, just like they always have and anyone who doesn’t agree is simply trying to deny them the right to ‘make a living’.

These criminal and outlaw watermen have enjoyed weak-sister treatment from various Maryland States Attorneys and good-old-boy District Court Judges when the outlaw watermen come to court.

Repeat offenders often get off with little or no fine.

The news story of Somerset County’s prosecutor, Daniel W. Powell is included in the current edition of THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY now on newsstands. Powell has decided to take a stand on repeat offenders and is suggesting changes in the law to provide jail time for repeat offenders. Read the current edition now on newsstands for more on this topic.

Now; for the latest OUTLAW WATERMEN and accused PIRATE POACHERS of the CHESAPEAKE!

Maryland NRP report: Maryland Natural Resources officers on the Eastern Shore and in the Central Region recently charged 13 men with oyster poaching and hunting violations.

Officers conducting surveillance of the Nanticoke River Oyster Sanctuary in Wicomico County last Friday shortly after 4 a.m. saw two men dredging within its boundaries. The officers intercepted the unlighted vessel after it finished dredging and began heading upstream.

Aboard, they found 32 bushels of oysters, four of which contained undersized oysters.

Vaughn Edward Collins Jr., 44, of 21052 Insley Drive, Tyaskin, Md., and Kristopher Daniel Graves, 20, of 600 Ardmore Terrace, Salisbury, were each charged with illegal oyster harvesting more than 150 feet inside a sanctuary; harvesting oysters before legal hours; possessing oysters onboard a vessel between two hours after sunset and before sunrise; being over the daily harvest limit; failing to tag oysters; and two charges each of possessing unculled oysters at 40 percent below legal size. Collins also was cited for operating a vessel without running lights.

The 32 bushels of oysters were returned to the sanctuary and the dredge was seized.

Both men are schedule to appear in Wicomico District Court on March 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm. If found guilty of all charges, each man could be fined a maximum of $6,000.

On Jan. 20, officers charged two Dorchester County watermen with multiple violations after they were caught harvesting oysters from a sanctuary and from a polluted area.

Alan Richard Wessells Jr., 33, of 1218 Lodge Hall Road, Fishing Creek, and Donald Matthew Wroten Jr., 35, of Cambridge, were observed dredging for oysters north of the Choptank River Bridge at 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 29, 2015.

NRP officer A. Wilson boarded the vessel and found 15 ½ bushels on the deck, over the daily harvest limit. He escorted the workboat back to shore. The oysters were returned to the sanctuary.

Wessells was criminally charged with: harvesting oysters more than 150 feet inside a sanctuary; harvesting oysters more than 150 feet inside a polluted area; exceeding the daily harvest limit; and operating a vessel without proper running lights. A criminal summons was issued.

Wroten was charged on Jan. 24 with harvesting oysters during illegal hours, and possessing oysters more than two hours after sunset and before sunrise.

Both men are schedule to appear in Dorchester District Court on April 15. If found guilty on all charges, Wessells could be fined a maximum of $7,500 and Wroten could be fined as much as $2,000.

Vaughn Edward Collins of 21280 Bivalve Lodge Road, Bivalve, Md.

Officers from three counties fanned out on Tangier Sound on a saturation patrol in August of 2014. 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 was 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. Cited on Aug. 1, 2014 by NRP Officer Antonio Deepee, Collins was charged with poaching crabs by setting crabs in a restricted area as described above. The difference in this case and the one below, was that in the case of this charge, it was heard in a different county. Wicomico County States Attorney Matthew Maciarello agreed to a weak fine at $372.50 and no jail time, but at least there was some minor consequence to this piratical actions.

Cited on Aug. 9, 2014 by NRP Officer Antonio Deepee with placing crab pots in a prohibited area, he cooked up a sweet deal with Dorchester County States Attorney William H. Jones and entered a plea of guilty in District Court on Oct. 15, 2014.  He was fined ZERO dollars and ZERO court costs. (There is no evidence that a bushel of crabs made to any public official’s back porch.)

Cited on Nov. 13, 2014 by NRP Officer J. McNamara for failing to have a tidal fisheries license available. In Wicomico County District Court, a plea deal with the Wicomico County States Attorney Matthew Maciarello, resulted in a mere $32.50 fine.

Cited with five traffic offenses by Maryland State Trooper T. Middleton on July 22, 2012. The charges ranged from failing to provide a driver’s permit to an officer to negligent driving in a manner that is careless and imprudent and endangering property, life and person. Somerset County States Attorney Daniel W. Powell dropped all five charges with no fine and no time in spite of the offenses contributing to an accident which caused personal injury. The crash took place on Deal Island Road at Ralph Abbott Road.

Cited on Jan. 20, 2012 for taking oysters without a commercial license by NRP Officer Brimer. In Somerset County District Court on March 13, 2012, a plea deal was struck with Somerset County States Attorney Daniel Powell and Collins was allowed Probation without Judgment and fine of $250 and no jail time.

Cited by NRP Officer Steven Stauffer for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia on Aug. 31, 2008. In Cecil County District Court, a plea deal resulted in a guilty plea to the paraphernalia and the pot charge dropped; a $200 fine and no jail time.

Cited by a Maryland State Trooper on July 7, 2007 for operating a vehicle on a revoked license. Entered a guilty plea on Feb. 20, 2008 and was fined $207.50 and sentenced to 30 days in jail. On June 27, 2008, was cited for failure to pay the suspension. Sentence was set to start on Feb. 22, 2008.

Cited by Salisbury Police Officer D. Underwood for operating a vehicle on a revoked license on June 29, 2007. Charges were dropped in Wicomico County District Court by the Wicomico States Attorney on Jan. 3, 2008.

Cited by Maryland State Trooper W. Laird on Jan. 12, 2007 for giving a false name to a police officer and operating a vehicle on a revoked permit. Entered a guilty plea with Somerset County States Attorney Kristy M. Hickman and was given a sentence of 20 days in jail served on 10 consecutive weekends beginning on Aug. 31, 2007.

In Circuit Court for Wicomico County, Collins was charged with theft by Salisbury Police Officer Don Kuczenski and on Feb. 11, 2005 entered a guilty plea in a deal with Wicomico States Attorney Davis Ruark. Collins was sentenced to 90 days in jail and work release was permitted.

Arrested on criminal information filed in Wicomico County Circuit Court for events that took place on Oct. 14, 2004 resulted in 25 counts of assault, reckless endangerment, robbery, armed robbery, deadly weapon with intent to injure, resisting arrest, eluding an officer, driving off a roadway, failure to stop, failing to obey traffic signals, driving off a roadway while passing a vehicle, driving the wrong way on a one-way street, negligent driving and any other charge associated with a general state of failure to stop running from the cops. Most of the charges were dropped in a plea deal on Feb. 2, 2005 with States Attorney Ruark and Collins was given a total of 5 years in prison for second-degree assault, resisting arrest, eluding a police officer, driving with a suspended license and reckless driving with 14 months of probation and ZERO dollars fine. This being the Alice in Wonderland Court System of Maryland, Collins was allowed parole and by Dec. 26, 2006 he had already violated the terms of his probation and was scheduled for a sentencing hearing. By March 26, 2008, a new arrest triggered a probation officer’s summary and report for the court.

Charged in Wicomico County Circuit Court he entered a guilty plea to assault on Jan. 2, 1997 and was sentenced to 5 years in prison with several other charges dropped. Collins was ordered to pay $500 in restitution.

Convicted of malicious property destruction on June 23, 1994 in Somerset County Circuit Court and sentenced to prison for one year and eleven months was suspended.

Batman’s sidekick:

Kristopher Daniel Graves is only beginning his possible career as a pirate and only has the current seven poaching related charges in his horsepower. He has only been able to amass a few traffic charges thus far.

Alan Richard Wessells Jr.

In addition to being charged with the raid on the oyster sanctuary on Jan. 29th, Wessells was charged on Jan. 1, 2015 by Officer Jason Dickerson with possession of drugs other than pot, paraphernalia and drug equipment with the intent to distribute controlled dangerous substances. Trial is set for April 27, 2015.

A Domestic Violence order was brought against Alan Wessells Jr. on April 18, 2014 in Dorchester County District Court ordering him to not abuse, not contact, not enter the residence and vacate the home; was dismissed when the petitioner failed to appear for the hearing.

Three counts of assault, threats and property destruction brought by Alan Wessells Jr against Stacey Francis on April 11, 2014 were dropped by the Dorchester County States Attorney on June 30, 2014.  A counter charge against Wessells by Francis for assault was also dropped by the prosecutor the same day.

On four charges of reckless endangerment, assault and child abuse filed in Dorchester District Court on April 27, 2009, three of the charges were recorded judgment of acquittal on May 26, 2009 while the fourth, that of child abuse was dismissed while the court record noted that as part of the plea, Wessells was then committed to the jail that same day until July 20, 2009.  The charges were brought by Officer Wayne Brittingham and Wessells was represented by the Public Defender in Cambridge, who is paid for by the taxpayers.

Wessells was charged with assault by Officer Chad B. Mothersell on April 15, 2009 in Dorchester County District Court and he entered a plea of not guilty. He was found guilty and sent to jail for 20 days with ten of the days suspended by the court and he was ordered to pay a $142.50 fine. He was given credit for 2 days’ time served pending trial.  Wessells was represented in court by the Maryland Public Defender which is a taxpayer provided service.

Domestic Violence order to not abuse, stay away, have no contact, stay away from schools and home on May 6, 2010 was granted by a Dorchester County District Court Judge.

Charged with seven counts of burglary, assault, dangerous weapon, false imprisonment by Officer Jennifer Curran on Feb. 4, 2008 in Dorchester County District Court. The case was forwarded to Circuit Court for jury trial.

Charged with robbery and assault in Dorchester County Circuit Court for an offense on Sept. 22, 2007, he entered an Alford Plea on April 2, 2008, in which he admitted the prosecution could likely prove he was guilty but he was still claiming he wasn’t and the terms of the plea had him sentenced to jail for 60 days with all the time suspended and put on probation, which was likely the tough part, meaning he would have to obey all laws for a year (good luck on that one). The taxpayers of Maryland provided for his criminal defense again.

DUI charge by Cambridge Police Officer on June 22, 2006 was dropped by Dorchester County States Attorney on Sept. 12, 2006.

Charged with violation of probation and theft by Officer Stephen J. Cook on Jan. 26, 2004, Wessells was again represented by the Maryland Public Defender. In Dorchester County District Court, he arranged a guilty plea deal with the States Attorney and was fined $245 for theft and sentenced to jail for six months with all of the jail time suspended. On the violation of probation he was sent to real jail time of 30 days.

Other charges of pot, assault, theft, etc. appear on his record with many of them dropped, a few convictions and some simply not resulting in anything definitive. The Maryland Public Defenders should appreciate the fact that he has given him so much business over the years and hopefully they will send him a fruitcake with a file in it to him in the slammer.  The more he is out of jail, the more business they will have.

Donald Matthew Wroten Jr. of 10 Oak Street, Cambridge, Md.:

Charged by Officer Robert Ball on Sept. 29, 2009 with two counts of second-degree assault in Dorchester County District Court. Both charges were dropped by the Dorchester County States Attorney on March 11, 2010 as he was indicted in Circuit Court. No fine was assessed but Wroten was jailed on Jan. 11, 2010 and released from jail on Feb. 17, 2010. He was represented by the Maryland Public Defender Office in Cambridge, Md., which is provided by the taxpayers as free lawyers for defendants who state that they are indigent and cannot pay for a lawyer. A plea deal with Dorchester States Attorney William H. Jones in Circuit Court on the two charges on Feb. 24, 2010 netted him a 5-year and 57 day jail sentence with 5 years of the sentence suspended, leaving him with one year and 26 days of jail time. He was put on supervised probation for three years. The various charges of burglary and reckless endangerment were dropped but Wroten was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $440.31 to Shore Health System of Maryland and $261.00 to Eastern Shore Emergency Physicians.

Violation of Probation notice in the previous case was filed on April 12, 2011 resulting in a warrant for Wroten’s arrest being issued on April 14, 2011 and his being arrested on that warrant on July 16, 2012.

Arrest for theft on April 26, 2006 resulted in guilty plea on July 10, 2006 in Dorchester District Court. He was fined $192.50 and sent to jail for two days.

Dorchester States Attorney Willliam Jones
Dorchester States Attorney Willliam Jones

Arrested for violation of ex-parte and malicious property destruction on Jan. 16, 2006; on March 6, 2006 Wroten pleaded guilty to the destruction and the violation of the ex-parte was dropped by Dorchester States Attorney William H. Jones. Wroten was fined $142.50 and jailed for sixty days with time served credit of 47 days. He was ordered to pay restitution of $538.00.

A charge of assault on Nov. 26, 2005 resulted in the case being put on the Stet Docket by the Dorchester States Attorney on Jan. 9, 2006.

Other charges of burglary, drugs, violation of probation and assault populate much of 2002 and 2003 and at this point the reader gets the idea that Wroten isn’t so much a waterman but a criminal who in recent years has spotted the economic opportunities available in raiding oyster sanctuaries. It should be apparent to the reader that this man who has no problem with smacking women and children would steal the catch and gear of honest watermen who might speak out against him and other Pirate Poachers of the Chesapeake. With the taxpayers of Maryland paying his legal bills and the feckless prosecutors and sissy Judges of Maryland hell-bent to be sure this guy never stays in the slammer for too long, one can be assured that the oyster sanctuaries remain in peril.

The Governor of Maryland appoints District Court and Circuit Court Judges and the public is pretty much stuck with the liberal bozos who have been appointed to the bench by the left-wing Democrats Glendenning and O’Malley. Time will tell if Governor Hogan breaks the mold and appoints Judges who enforce the law.

In the case of States Attorneys, the voters can toss out the prosecutors in the next election. If you want to know who to vote for, just look at the pickup trucks of the outlaw watermen and see whose bumper sticker they have stuck on their trucks. Then you will know who not to support.

In the meantime, cash in on tipping off the cops to PIRATE POACHERS of the CHESAPEAKE. The Natural Resources Police have set up a poaching hotline.

Catch a Poacher 24 Hour Hotline


Citizens who supply Maryland Natural Resources Police with information leading to the arrest and conviction of a poaching violator are eligible to receive cash rewards. Give names, addresses, vehicle descriptions, and as much information as possible. The anonymity of the caller is guaranteed.

Add this number to your cell phone contact list!



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