Local Seafood Dealers and Fishermen Sentenced

By: U.S. Attorney's Office
By: U.S. Attorney's Office

Local Seafood Dealers and Fishermen Sentenced

-- May 31, 2012 --

Michael J. Moore, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announces that sentences have been imposed upon the following defendants in a federal environmental crimes prosecution: Junior Wayne Harper, age 60, of Thomasville, GA, Byron James Puckett, age 42, of Cairo, GA, Charles Stacy Logue, age 40, of East Point, FL, and Ronald Irvin Burdette, age 47, of Moultrie, GA. The sentences were imposed by the Honorable Hugh Lawson, District Judge for the Middle District of Georgia, on May 31, in Valdosta, Georgia, following a two day sentencing hearing earlier this month. All defendants were sentenced to terms of three years probation and received fines as follows: Harper- $50,000; Puckett- $25,000; Logue - $5000; and Burdette - $5000.

Harper, the owner and Chief Executive Officer of Harper's Seafood, Inc., a wholesale seafood business located in Thomasville, GA, and Puckett, the company's Vice President, pled guilty on December 20, 2011, to the felony offense of conspiracy to purchase in interstate commerce fish which they knew 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). Harper and Puckett also pled guilty to making and submitting to the State of Florida a false Florida Marine Fisheries Trip Ticket by identifying an illegally purchased species of fish as a different species, also a felony violation of the Lacey Act. In addition, Harper, Logue and Burdette pled guilty to one felony count of selling and purchasing in interstate commerce fish which they knew had been taken and sold in violation of Florida laws and regulations.

During the timeframe of the conspiracy, Harper's Seafood illegally purchased fish having a market value in excess of $200,000 from 48 fishermen who did not have commercial licenses, including Logue and Burdette. Of that amount, approximately $40,000 was paid for by Harper from his personal checking account. The company's business records also revealed other transactions in which Harper's Seafood purchased fish illegally, with the primary violation being that the fish were sold during a closed season.

In imposing the sentences, Judge Lawson noted that it is important to preserve and protect our nation's resources, and that seafood safety is also an important consideration.

The case was investigated by agents with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney K. Alan Dasher.

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Local Seafood Dealers and Fishermen Plead Guilty

December 2, 2011

Michael J. Moore, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announces that felony guilty pleas have been entered by the following defendants in a federal environmental crimes prosecution: Junior Wayne Harper, age 59, of Thomasville, GA, Byron James Puckett, age 42, of Cairo, GA, Charles Stacy Logue, age 40, of East Point, FL, and Ronald Irvin Burdette, age 47, of Moultrie, GA.

On December 20, 2011, Harper, the owner and Chief Executive Officer of Harper’s Seafood, Inc., a wholesale seafood business located in Thomasville, GA, and Puckett, the company’s Vice President, pled guilty before the Honorable Hugh Lawson, District Judge for the Middle District of Georgia, to conspiracy to purchase in interstate commerce fish which they knew 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). Harper and Puckett also pled guilty to making and submitting to the State of Florida a false Florida Marine Fisheries Trip Ticket by identifying an illegally purchased species of fish as a different species, also a felony violation of the Lacey Act. In addition, Harper, Logue and Burdette pled guilty to one felony count of selling and purchasing in interstate commerce fish which they knew had been taken and sold in violation of Florida laws and regulations.

Plea agreements entered in the cases establish that during the timeframe of the conspiracy, Harper’s Seafood illegally purchased approximately $100,000 of fish from 48 fishermen who did not have commercial licenses as required by Florida law, including Logue and Burdette. After it became known in the fishing industry that another seafood dealer was under investigation for similar violations, Harper purchased approximately $40,000 more fish from the unlicensed fishermen through his personal account. The company’s business records also revealed other transactions in which Harper’s Seafood purchased fish illegally, with the primary violation being that the fish were sold during a closed season.

Each felony count to which the defendants pled guilty carries a maximum possible sentence of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both, a period of supervised release of up to three years, and a $100 mandatory assessment. The defendants will be sentenced at a later date.

The case was investigated by agents with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), and is being 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.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Anonymous on Jun 3, 2012 at 06:36 PM
    The Lacey Act should be repealed. It only serves to insert the federal government into matters that should be handled by state law enforcement.
  • by Anonymous on Jun 2, 2012 at 02:45 AM
    who cares
    • reply
      by Sandy on Jun 2, 2012 at 11:08 PM in reply to
      I do. So shut up.
  • by not grouper Location: Tally on Jun 1, 2012 at 08:10 PM
    Went to well known seafood restaurant, fish made me gag. NOT Grouper - as advertised. So, I might need to visit Harpers for some real fish.
  • by Anonymous on Jun 1, 2012 at 05:12 PM
    These people aren't hard working honorable citizens. What they are is repeat offender career criminals. They deliberately make their ill gotten profits by not only depleting the resource, but also by ripping off the consumer. The sentencing as reported in the story is far too light.
    • reply
      by but that is ok you are paying the man's tax money. the man's will clean the enviroment up one day when he get's around to it. on Jun 1, 2012 at 07:26 PM in reply to
      ok do gooder. everytime you turn a light or crank your car you are depleting natural resourses and poluting the earth with posionus gasses.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jun 2, 2012 at 03:51 AM in reply to but that is ok you are paying the man's tax money. the man's will clean the enviroment up one day when he get's around to it.
        Well now, no stuff, Einstein. But those actions aren't illegal and aren't ripping off honest, hard working people for my own profit.
      • reply
        by Sandy on Jun 2, 2012 at 11:12 PM in reply to but that is ok you are paying the man's tax money. the man's will clean the enviroment up one day when he get's around to it.
        This sort of comment is just ridiculous. So what...since we can't come up with a perfect solution, don't even try? If you prescribe to that mentality then you might as well give up all medicine because we're all going to die eventually. And why not stop cleaning...you're just going to get things dirty again tomorrow. Sickness and filth...that's the world you want to live in. Nice for you. Keep laughing at us "do-gooders" as we make up for the slackers of the world. Yourself included.
  • by Anonymous on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:06 AM
    This stinks! Now we wont get fresh seafood! I love Harpers and I will buy from them criminals or not! The more illegal fish they buy, the more I can buy from them! The fishing regs are horribly miscalulated and I will not buy seafood from Japan.
  • by Anonymous on Jun 1, 2012 at 09:38 AM
    Poachers steal from everyone, and will steal anything from anyone. They are scum. In addition to the penalties imposed, which seem very light, these people should be restricted from hunting and fishing for life.
    • reply
      by in your face on Jun 1, 2012 at 07:28 PM in reply to
      bp should be run out of america but they make us alot of money in fees and taxes so they can stay and we will forget.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jun 2, 2012 at 03:52 AM in reply to in your face
        BP is a separate subject. But yes, I agree.
  • by William Location: San Diego on Jun 1, 2012 at 09:14 AM
    It is true that we are a Nation of Laws, no problem, but to some about the invasion of foreign foods in ours store. We send toxic pesticides to others country that we don't use here, but we buy that same products and consume it. Here, they try pawn off fish called basa and swai, that come from Thailand and Vietnam, and they are plain catfish. And the worst is tilapia, cheap but little nutritional values.
  • by IM Location: Tville on Jun 1, 2012 at 06:06 AM
    Laws are Laws, no mater how stupid we may think they are! They broke the law and even admitted it! They should be punished!
    • reply
      by vince on Jun 1, 2012 at 08:44 AM in reply to IM
      in fl it is against the law to have sexual relations in any way other than mitionary. a woman traveling down a road at dusk must be led by two men carrying lanterns. these are laws still on the books. still believe what you just wrote? there are hundreds more just google them. ill bet you break the law once a week.
  • by Preacher Location: Cairo on Jun 1, 2012 at 04:59 AM
    Byron Pucket seems like a nice guy who ran a foul of an over zeolous environmental protection agency that is bent of starving mankind at the expense of humans. Florida DEP is a criminal gang that should be rounded up by Rick Scott and thrown in prison, all of them!!!
  • by x-trooper Location: valdosta on May 31, 2012 at 09:38 PM
    wow lowndes county can buy another suv with all that money plus 25 more thousand to ride around in to look pretty.
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