CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) - A federal judge sentenced a commercial fisherman to seven months in prison on Thursday for underreporting his haul of fluke.
Prosecutors hammered Anthony Joseph, of Levittown, N.Y., for 158 falsified fishing logs with respect to his dragger, the Stirs One, "as part of a scheme to defraud the United States of overharvested and underreported fluke."
The Stirs One principally targeted fluke, also known as summer flounder, between 2009 and 2011, and regulators say Joseph knew that the vessel exceeded federal and New York state quotas for fluke on at least 158 trips.
"These illegal overages totaled 302,000 pounds of fluke worth approximately $626,000," the Justice Department said today.
To cover up the illegal fluke harvesting, Joseph falsified fishing records that he personally mailed to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Since Joseph's customers must report their purchases to NOAA on dealer report, the government says "Joseph needed to ensure that corresponding false dealer reports were being submitted that contained the same false information as was contained on the" fishing logs he falsified.
"A mismatch would have indicated a serious error or fraud, and would have been a red flag for fisheries managers," the Justice Department said.
Prosecutors say Joseph "schemed with two other fish dealers to submit false dealer reports in furtherance of the fraud."
These dealers, Alan Dresner and Jones Inlet Seafood Company, were already previously convicted for submitting at least 167 false dealer reports from computers in New York to NOAA's Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester, Mass., the Justice Department says.
Prosecutors say Joseph also relied on exemptions under the federal Research Set-Aside program, characterizing the RSA Program as "a license to steal."
Joseph joked that RSA stood for "Research Steal-Aside," the government said.
In addition to the prison sentence, Joseph also faces three years of supervised release and $603,000 in restitution.
He pleaded guilty on April 11, 2014, to one count of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud and one count of falsification of federal records.
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