Bryan Gosman and Asa Gosman, both of Montauk, New York, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Central Islip, New York, to one felony count of criminal conspiracy for their role in a scheme to purchase illegal summer flounder and black sea bass from a local fisherman. In addition, the company which they partially own, Bob Gosman Co. Inc., a federally-licensed fish dealer also located in Montauk, pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor Lacey Act Fish Trafficking.
On April 20, a federal grand jury indicted Christopher Winkler, Bryan Gosman, Asa Gosman and Bob Gosman Co. Inc. with one count of conspiracy, among other crimes. The indictment charged a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as well as to unlawfully frustrate the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) efforts at regulating federal fisheries.
The indictment alleges that between May 2014 and July 2016, Winkler, as captain of the New Age, went on dozens of fishing trips where he caught fluke or black sea bass in excess of applicable quotas. Bryan and Asa Gosman admitted that this fish was then sold to a now-defunct company, an unindicted co-conspirator, in the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, New York. Both Asa Gosman and Bryan Gosman had an ownership interest in the defunct company. After the Bronx company went under, Bryan and Asa Gosman contend that Winkler sold a much smaller quantity of his illegal catch directly to Bob Gosman Co. Inc. In court documents, Bryan and Asa Gosman admit that the sales of illegal fish (to both companies) totaled at least $240,000 wholesale.
Under federal law, a fishing captain is required to accurately detail his catch on a form known as a Fishing Vessel Trip Report (FVTR), which is sent to NOAA. Similarly, the first company that buys fish directly from a fishing vessel is termed a fish dealer, and fish dealers are required to specify what they purchase on a federal form known as a dealer report, which is transmitted electronically to NOAA. Pursuant to statutory mandate, NOAA utilizes this information to set policies designed to ensure a sustainable fishery. Bryan and Asa Gosman stated that part of the conspiracy was to falsify both FVTRs and dealer reports to cover-up the fact that fish were taken in excess of quotas. The pair also admitted to obstructing NOAA’s investigation into the conspiracy through the joint destruction of incriminating business records that Bryan Gosman had removed from the defunct Bronx company in March 2017. These records would have been responsive to a then-outstanding grand jury subpoena.
As part of the plea deal for the company, Bob Gosman Co. Inc. agreed to pay a criminal fine of $50,000 and be placed on probation for four years. The company also would have to implement an Environmental Compliance Plan with enhanced monitoring, training, and inspection requirements. Sentencing hearings for these defendants will be set at a future date. The trial of the remaining defendant, Christopher Winkler, is yet to be scheduled.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim made the announcement.
The case was investigated by agents of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service as part of Operation One-Way Chandelier. The case is being prosecuted by Christopher L. Hale and Kenneth Nelson of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, Environment and Natural Resources Division.