Three brothers who live in the Lower Keys have been indicted for harvesting spiny lobsters from illegal habitat called casitas, catching more than their daily commercial bag limit and falsifying commercial fishing reports to conceal their take.
A commercial fish wholesale buyer has also been charged with buying the illegally harvested lobster and helping the brothers cover up the crimes, according to a federal indictment.
Fishermen Charles, Tyson and Ryan Veach, who fish out of Stock Island, have been charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office with making "multiple landings of lobster that exceeded the applicable daily vessel harvest and possession limit of 250 lobster, and in concert with known and unknown co-conspirators, made repeated sales of spiny lobster in interstate commerce through commercial wholesale dealers," according to the indictment by a grand jury.
The brothers and Big Coppitt Key commercial fish dealer Dennis Dallmeyer were also charged with "failing to make accurate and timely reports to the State of Florida of all harvested lobster as required by law, and by fraudulently attributing lobster harvested in excess of the legal daily limit to others who were not party to the lobster harvesting and sales," according to the indictment.
Federal law enforcement officers arrested Ryan and Tyson Veach, who went before Judge Lorraine Snow on Monday in federal court in Key West. Both were released on a $100,000 signature bond, which means they were released without having to post bond. If they fail to show up for court appearances the government can sue them for $100,000.
During court proceedings, the brothers only answered "yes" or "no" to basic questions about whether they understood the legal process as their attorney, Stephen Rose, represented them via closed circuit television camera from Fort Lauderdale.
Charles Veach is scheduled to turn himself in to authorities and appear in federal court today, Judge Snow said. Federal agents could not say Monday where Dallmeyer was or if he planned to turn himself in.
The men's charges involve multiple incidents in which the brothers harvested lobster from illegal habitats and exceeded daily commercial limits dating back to 2009, according to the indictment.
The grand jury indictment states that on Aug. 7, 2009, Charles and Ryan Veach, while operating a vessel called the Super Grouper, harvested an unknown quantity of spiny lobster from illegal artificial habitats. Later that day, Charles Veach sold approximately 334 pounds of whole, fresh spiny lobster to a "co-conspirator known to the grand jury," the indictment states.
It also states:
• On or about Aug. 7, 2009, Tyson Veach and "a co-conspirator known to the grand jury" harvested an unknown quantity of spiny lobster in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary from artificial habitat and sold it on Big Coppitt Key to a wholesale dealer, the indictment states.
• On or about that same day, Charles Veach sold approximately 344 pounds of spiny lobster, harvested from artificial habitat in the sanctuary, to a wholesale dealer in Big Coppitt Key.
• On or about Aug. 7, 2009, a co-conspirator known to the grand jury failed to report to the state of Florida purchases of spiny lobster from Charles and Tyson Veach.
• On or about Aug. 8, 2009, Charles and Ryan Veach harvested 360 pounds of lobster within sanctuary waters.
• On or about Aug. 8, 2009, Dallmeyer acquired approximately 117 pounds of illegally harvested spiny lobster from Charles Veach and transported and sold the lobster to a wholesale dealer in Key West. Dallmeyer "concealed the source of spiny lobster being sold to a wholesale dealer by falsely representing that lobster had been harvested by the use of lobster traps," the federal indictment states.
Federal prosecutors cited numerous other cases in which the brothers exceeded daily bag limits, including one case in which Ryan Veach harvested 400 pounds of spiny lobster, sold it to a wholesale dealer, and then falsely represented that the lobster had been harvested from a vessel registered to him, according to the indictment.