CaribWorldNews, MIAMI, FL, Weds. Jan. 27, 2010: A 45-year-old Bahamian national has pled guilty on charges related to the illegal importation of quantities of queen conch and spiny lobster from the Bahamas to the United States.
Robbie Franklin Smith pleaded guilty in Fort Lauderdale District Court.
According to the allegations in the indictment, court records, and statements in Court, in December 2005 a vessel operated by a Miami-based seafood dealer, James Hanson, was intercepted by a Coast Guard patrol vessel. During a boarding and inspection, officers found more than 1,000 pounds of undeclared spiny lobster and approximately 340 pounds of queen conch, which had been supplied to Hansen in the Bahamas by Smith.
Hanson planned to land the seafood in the United States and market it through Hansen Seafood, Inc., a company which he owned. According to records in the related cases, between June and December 2005, on approximately a dozen occasions, Hanson purchased spiny lobster and conch from Smith and imported it illegally into the United States using boats owned through his companies, and employees of his companies. According to Court documents, the total fair market value of the trips exceeded $87,000.
United States District Court Judge William J. Zloch, who accepted the guilty plea from the defendant, set sentencing for April 6, 2010. On the single count to which Smith pled guilty, he faces a possible sentence of up to five years in prison and a three-year period of supervised release. Smith`s associate, Hanson, was previously convicted and sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $75,000, perform 300 hours of community service, and to serve a period of three years` probation. He was also ordered to relinquish any claim to the proceeds of the seized product, which was valued at $13,930. Additionally, Hanson was ordered to forfeit the boat used in the commission of the offense.