(CN) – San Francisco real estate developer Luke Brugnara has pleaded guilty to poaching threatened steelhead trout on his property and for lying to investigators. Brugnara admitted he blocked the flow of Little Arthur Creek through a private dam on his property in Gilroy to trap the trout, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Steelhead trout are anadromous: born in streams such as the Little Arthur and migrate to the Pacific Ocean, where they live up to 3 years before returning to their birthplace to spawn.
From at least January through April 2007, Brugnara closed off the opening in his dam that had allowed steelhead to migrate upstream.
When investigators found a number of trapped adult steelheads downstream from Brugnara’s dam that were unable to migrate upstream, they sent a rescue team to free the trapped fish. When the rescue team arrived to move the steelhead upstream, they found that the steelhead had disappeared, and found “significant evidence of poaching activities,” prosecutors said.
Brugnara’s is the first federal criminal case for blocking steelhead migration, according to the U.S Attorney’s Office in San Francisco.
Brugnara also admitted making false statements to the California Department of Fish and Game Wardens who interviewed him during the investigation.
Brugnara will be sentenced on May 5. He faces a maximum sentence of 6 months in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation of the Endangered Species Act, and 5 years and a $250,000 for each false statement charge.