A Brooklyn fish dealer pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to underreport and sell more than $500,000 of illegally caught fluke.
Alan Dresner, 63, spoke without hesitation before U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Feuerstein in Central Islip in admitting guilt in the case, which resulted from an ongoing federal probe of a fisheries program known as research set-aside.
The program allows fishermen to bid on the right to buy allotments of fish beyond state quotas, and it is popular in New York, which gets among the lowest commercial quota of fluke among Atlantic coastal states. Prosecutors say the set-aside program often is abused, and two Long Island fishermen have pleaded guilty in the probe.
Between July 2009 and December 2011, Dresner said, he filed at least 120 false dealer reports for 246,367 pounds of fluke purchased from Anthony Joseph, a commercial fisherman from Levittown who pleaded guilty to four counts in the scheme earlier this month. Joseph was captain of the Stirs One, a fishing trawler based in Point Lookout.
Court papers said Dresner "knowingly coordinated his false dealer reports" with falsified catch reports filed by Joseph. Dresner would pay for legally reported fluke by check, and pay Joseph in cash for the illegal unreported portion.
The fish were valued at $510,000, federal prosecutor Christopher Hale said in court.
Dresner faces 20 years in prison in the single count, as well as a $250,000 fine. Under a plea deal, prosecutors are recommending he serve between 27 and 33 months in prison and a fine of no more than $60,000. Restitution could amount to $510,000.
Dresner and his lawyer, Maurice Sercarz, declined comment.