So the Florida Keys Keynoter ran their version of the lobster poaching plea deal (see below) and it contained an interesting bit of information. Apparently the charges against the three brothers that were indicted stemmed from information given by David Driefort, the commercial diver who was the subject of the highest profile casita case yet, dubbed operation "Freezer Burn" as part of his plea deal.
It still breezes over the fact that three brothers are the only ones yet to receive merely misdemeanor convictions. Nearly every other defendant that has stood before Federal judges in these types of cases have plead to felonies, costing them their right to vote as well as the right to bear arms.
The interesting thing about this piece, however, is that it does cite Driefort as a cooperating witness; speculation is running rampant on the Coconut Telegraph that the three brothers are cooperating in upcoming investigations against other commercial fisherman. Representatives of several Federal agencies involved refused to comment on that speculation.
Three admit to illegally taking lobster, fourth defendant still missing
BY KEVIN WADLOW
firstname.lastname@example.orgJanuary 28, 2015
A lobster-poaching investigation and legal case lasting more than five years hit its climax Monday when three Lower Keys commercial fishermen pleaded guilty in Key West federal court.
Charles Veach, 39, of Big Coppitt Key; Ryan Veach, 41, formerly of Bay Point; and Tyson Veach, 36, of Stock Island admitted taking hundreds of pounds of lobster illegally from manmade underwater habitats, exceeding daily commercial diving limits for a lobster harvest and acting to conceal the size of the harvest.
In a plea agreement reached with the South Florida U.S. Attorney's Office, the three men agreed to accept six-month prison sentences and $25,000 fines, to be recommended by prosecutors.
At sentencing May 5 in Key West, U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence King has the option of imposing up to a year in prison and $100,000 fines.
A federal agent placed an electronic tracker aboard the men's boat, the 32-foot Super Grouper, while it was docked in August 2009 at the Oceanside Marina on Stock Island.
Information from the tracker was used by state and federal officers to follow the boat to several sites where illegal underwater structures, known as casitas, were placed to attract lobster. It is illegal to take lobster from a casita.
The Super Grouper and all related equipment will be forfeited.
Last week, federal judges denied a defense motion seeking to block evidence gathered from the tracker. The judges concluded that agents had sufficient cause to believe the boat was being used to illegally harvest lobster.
Some of that information came from convicted Lower Keys lobster poacher David Dreifort, who was arrested for major lobster violations in 2008, the decision says.
A fourth fisherman charged in the Veach case -- Dennis Dallmeyer, 67, of Big Coppitt Key -- agreed in November to plead guilty to selling illegally harvested lobster on behalf of the Veaches. Dallmeyer was expected to testify in the Veaches' trial, which had been scheduled to begin Tuesday.
But he's been missing since Jan. 6. After he was reported overdue from a fishing trip, his 25-foot boat was found empty when spotted several miles south of Key West. A U.S. Coast Guard air and sea search was launched Jan. 7 but did not find any trace of the fisherman.
The search was halted days later but agents of the Coast Guard Investigative Service are keeping the case open. His boat found Jan. 13 on Elliott Key in Miami-Dade County.
"We have no idea where Mr. Dallmeyer might be but we're still in the process of looking for him," Agent Paul Shultz said Tuesday.