Miami Brokers Busted for Selling Undersized Spiny Lobsters
A Miami-based father-and-son seafood brokerage team was charged earlier this month with importing undersized spiny lobsters from Brazil and the Bahamas.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement charged Milton L. Mecozzi Sr. and Milton L. Mecozzi Jr. of Cudjoe Key, Fla., in separate criminal cases. Both were charged with violating the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits the sale of wildlife that was illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold.
According to court documents, from December 2003 through August 2005 the Mecozzis operated Bobbery Enterprises, a Hialeah, Fla., seafood brokerage firm. Milton L. Mecozzi Jr. is charged with knowingly importing, receiving, acquiring and purchasing spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) that was possessed, transported and sold in violation of foreign law. Bahamas law prohibits the harvest, possession or sale of any lobster that, if the tail is severed from the head, has a tail measurement of less than 5 1/2 inches.
The defendants are scheduled to appear in federal court in Miami on Jan. 5. Milton L. Mecozzi Jr. faces possible imprisonment of up to five years on each of the two Lacey Act violations, as well as criminal fines on each count of up to $250,000, or twice the relevant gain from the criminal conduct. Milton L. Mecozzi Sr. also faces a possible prison term of up to five years on the Lacey Act charge against him, as well as a criminal fine of up to $250,000, or twice the relevant gain from the criminal conduct.
Milton L. Mecozzi Sr. was also charged with a violation of the federal bank fraud statute, an offense that carries a possible prison sentence of up to 30 years, a criminal fine of up to $250,000, or twice the relevant gain from the criminal conduct, and restitution to the victim of the offense.
Investigative efforts were conducted by the NOAA Office for Enforcement and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
In September, the National Fisheries Institute in McLean, Va., urged fishery regulators to adopt a minimum-size requirement for spiny lobsters harvested from the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic to ensure the sustainability of the species.