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Montauk Gosman fish dealer family members arraigned on conspiracy, obstruction charges

Montauk fisherman Christopher Winkler, captain of the New

Montauk fisherman Christopher Winkler, captain of the New Age fishing trawler, as well as Bryan Gosman and Asa Gosman have been indicted on federal charges of conspiring to illegally harvest and sell fish caught above legal limits. Credit: Newsday/Mark Harrington

Two fish dealers who are members of the Montauk-based Gosman family pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and obstruction charges in federal court in Central Islip Wednesday in a case alleging they dealt in illegally caught fluke and black sea bass.

Bryan and Asa Gosman entered not-guilty pleas before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Wicks to a two-count indictment alleging they conspired to defraud the government by submitting false fishing reports and obstructed justice by withholding documents or emails requested in a grand jury subpoena. The men were released on $100,000 signature bonds with their travel restricted to the continental United States.

George Stamboulidis, an attorney for the Gosmans, declined to comment outside the courtroom. He had requested the men be released without the $100,00 bond, which Wicks denied.

Christopher Winkler, a Montauk fisherman who allegedly sold the Gosmans fish caught over the legal limits, was arraigned last week and pleaded not guilty to related conspiracy and obstruction charges, said his lawyer, Peter Smith of Northport, who declined to comment further.

The federal indictment unsealed last month charges Winkler, 61, Bryan Gosman, 48, and Asa Gosman, 45, with a conspiracy the government said took place between May 2014 and July 2016 involving more than $250,000 of over-quota fluke and black sea bass.

Asked after the proceeding if the federal government's 10-year investigation into commercial fishing was continuing, U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor Christopher Hale said, "I can't say anything about anything."

A Gosman family business, Bob Gosman Co. Inc., also was charged as part of the multi-count indictment. Brian McCarthy, an attorney for Bob Gosman Co., entered a not-guilty plea for the company. He declined to comment further.

Winkler, captain of the New Age fishing trawler in Montauk, is alleged to have landed over 74,000 pounds of illegal fluke and black sea bass valued at more than $250,000 during 70 fishing trips cited in the indictment. He allegedly sold the fish to a now-shuttered fish dealer operating at the New Fulton Fish Market, in which the Gosmans had an ownership interest, court papers say.

When that company went out of business, Winkler allegedly sold a portion of the catch to Bob Gosman Co., where the two Gosmans had management and ownership roles.

Bob Gosman Co. is part of the larger family-owned operation, known as Gosman's Dock at Montauk Harbor in Montauk. None of the other family businesses are named in the indictment.

The Department of Justice has been conducting an investigation into a commercial fishing program known as research-set aside that lets fishermen bid for allotments of fishing above the regular limits. Prosecutors charge some fishermen abused the program by taking fish well beyond their set-aside allotment. The case has involved raids on the home of some fishermen and at least 70 subpoenas have been issued to fishermen from Point Lookout to Montauk.

New York fishermen have been a particular focus of the investigation, which has netted prosecutors at least seven guilty pleas, at least two prison sentences, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution paid.

New York receives among the lowest levels of coast-wide quota for species such as fluke, despite the fact that the fish tend to migrate to the region for much of the year. States such as Virginia and North Carolina, combined, get about half the coastwide quota, a figure that has long been bemoaned by New York fishermen.

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