Super TF Poster - Not a Tidal Fish Subscriber
Wanchese fisherman pleads guilty to federal charges of illegal striper harvest and tax evasion
"Wanchese fisherman pleads guilty to federal charges
Posted: Tuesday, August 8, 2017 9:00 pm
Gaston L. Saunders, 53, of Wanchese, pled guilty on Aug. 3 to federal charges regarding the illegal harvest
and sale of Atlantic striped bass from federal waters.
The charges stem from a 2010 Lacey Act investigation by NOAA, assisted by the Coast Guard. Since
1990, there has been a ban on harvesting Atlantic striped bass in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),
which spans between three miles and 200 miles seaward of the coastline. Eleven other commercial
fishermen have entered guilty pleas for conduct uncovered in the investigation.
Saunders also pled guilty to one count of federal tax evasion and three counts of failure to file federal
taxes. In the plea agreement, he agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $544,946.35 payable to the
Internal Revenue Service.
A sentencing hearing will be set at a later date. Saunders faces a total maximum sentence of 13 years
imprisonment and/or a $800,000 fine.
According to the Department of Justice, further investigation revealed that, despite earning a substantial
income from his commercial fishing, Saunders failed to file a tax return since 1999. Starting in 2010, and in
order to avoid IRS collection efforts, Saunders directed his wife to deposit his fishing income into their joint
bank account, then withdraw the money the same day and used those funds to purchase cashier’s checks,
primarily in denominations of less than $10,000 each. His wife would place the cashier’s checks in a safe
deposit box, cashing them over the years as the couple needed money. Between October 2010 and August
2014, Saunders caused his wife to deposit at least 20 fishing income checks totally $432,419.20 and
converted the money to cashier’s checks. In total, Saunders and his wife failed to pay $544,946.35 in federal
NOAA determined that between Jan. 19, 2009 and Feb. 9, 2010 Saunders, then captain of the trawler
Little Sammie, harvested approximately 13,613 pounds of Atlantic striped bass from the EEZ, which he sold
to a fish dealer in Engelhard. The estimated fair market retail value of the 13,613 pounds of illegally
harvested fish exceeds $108,000. Saunders also submitted false statements to NOAA for two of three fishing
trips, falsely claiming he caught the fish in state waters...."
article continues at link above.
Dedicated TF Poster - Not a Tidal Fish Subscriber
I like how they got them on all the tax evasion charges too.