Four nabbed in sting targeting illegal fish sales

kwadlow@keynoter.comFebruary 5, 2014 

Hundreds of pounds of recreationally caught fish were sold illegally at Key West charterboat docks in a six-month period last year, say arrest warrants served Saturday.

Four Lower Keys men working as charterboat captains or mates were booked into the Monroe County Detention Center after a lengthy undercover investigation by officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

William "Billy" O. Wickers III, 41, part of a longtime Key West charter-fishing family, was charged with 25 misdemeanors related to the sale of fish sold without required state saltwater-product licenses. Wickers' bond was set at $50,000.

Anyone selling fish must have the commercial license, and fish must be sold to a licensed wholesaler. The undercover FWC agents reportedly told the charter crews that they, as buyers, were not licensed.

Also charged with conservation misdemeanors were:

  • Derek M. Pierce, 32, of Big Coppitt Key, 16 counts, $32,000 bond.

  • Larry A. Laney, 47, of Key West, six counts, $22,000 bond.

  • Jesus A. Diaz, 42, of Big Coppitt Key, two counts, $4,000 bond.
According to the arrest warrants, the undercover officers approached crewmen and asked if they had any fish "the customers didn't want" for sale.

Purchases of mutton snapper, yellowtail snapper, mackerel, dolphin and grouper were made at various times from July through December, according to the arrest warrants.

State law generally prohibits the sale of fish caught under recreational bag limits. Fish caught for sale by commercial fishermen who have a saltwater products license must be logged and reported.

All the defendants have been released on bond.

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