Florida Keys News
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Feds: Man illegally sold Keys lobster

Federal prosecutors allege a Pompano Beach seafood purveyor conspired to sell live spiny lobster caught in the Florida Keys to China, according to information filed in federal court Thursday.

The government alleges in the 6-page document that Eric Berman conspired with at least one other person "known to the U.S. Attorney's Office" to package and ship live lobster harvested in Monroe County to Hong Kong, China, via Miami International Airport.

He was charged with conspiracy to export seafood, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Federal prosecutors allege Berman ran afoul of the law by conspiracy to purchase the lobster without providing or creating trip tickets that would have notified Keys fishermen and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission of the transactions.

Three such incidents, all in August 2010, involved the shipment of more than 3,500 pounds of live lobster, according to court records.

The co-conspirator, who is not named in court records, purchased about 980 pounds of live Keys lobster during that same time without a wholesale dealer's license. That alleged conspirator worked with Berman to ship those lobsters to China as well, records state.

The paperwork filed in court Friday didn't elaborate further on that aspect of the case.

Prosecutors allege the men violated the Lacey Act, the same law used to prosecute myriad Keys defendants in the lobster casita cases over the past six years. The act makes it a federal offense to import, export, transport, sell or purchase in interstate commerce any wildlife protected at the state level.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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