New York - Wednesday, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York unsealed the indictment of one fisherman, a wholesale fish dealer, and two of its managers for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and obstruction in connection with a scheme to illegally overharvest fluke and black sea bass. All four defendants are from Montauk.
Christopher Winkler, 61, Bryan Gosman, 48, Asa Gosman, 45, and Bob Gosman Co. Inc. were charged with one count of 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. Winker and the corporate defendant each face substantive fraud charges. In addition, each of the defendants was charged with obstruction.
The indictment alleges that between May 2014 and July 2016, Winkler, as captain of the New Age, went on approximately 70 fishing trips where he caught fluke or black sea bass in excess of applicable quotas. This fish was then sold to a now-defunct company and unindicted co-conspirator in the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. Both Asa Gosman and Bryan Gosman had an ownership interest in the defunct company. After the Bronx company went under, Winkler sold a smaller quantity of his illegal catch directly to Bob Gosman Co. Inc., a Montauk fish dealer in which Asa Gosman and Bryan Gosman had a management role. The overages of fish included at least 74,000 pounds of fluke, and the overall over-quota fish (of all species) were valued at least $250,000 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 mailed 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. The indictment alleges that the part of the conspiracy was to falsify both FVTRs and dealer reports in order to cover-up the fact that fish were taken in excess of quotas.
Additionally, Asa Gosman, Bryan Gosman, and Bob Gosman Co. Inc., acting through its agents and employees, were charged with obstructing the investigation into these crimes by corruptly withholding certain documents and records sought by a federal grand jury.
Initiated as part of Operation One-Way Chandelier, the indictment is part of a multi-year, ongoing investigation into fisheries fraud on Long Island. The case is being investigated by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. Trial Attorney Christopher Hale of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division's Environmental Crimes Section is prosecuting the case.
The defendants will be arraigned at a future date.
An indictment is only an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven otherwise before a jury at trial.