A commercial fisherman from Mattituck pleaded guilty Thursday to falsifying documents and lying to investigators in connection with a 2011 scheme to illegally harvest fish valued at $78,000, authorities said.
James Kaminsky, 74, “systematically cover[ed] up the landing and sale of illegal fluke, scup and black sea bass that were overharvested” in violation of New York quotas and through abuse of a federal research program known as research set-aside, according to the Department of Justice.
The scheme took place between May and August of 2011, authorities said. Research set-aside allows fishermen to harvest out of season and exceed quotas, but authorities have branded it a “license to steal” because it has allowed some overfishing without proper reporting.
The charge of lying to investigators stemmed from false statements Kaminsky made at a November 2014 session with a federal prosecutor, the department said.
Harvey Arnoff, an attorney for Kaminsky, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
As part of a plea agreement to a single count of aiding and abetting false documents, and another count of oral false statements, Kaminisky will serve 6 months of home detention, 5 years of probation and pay a “financial penalty” of $150,000, the department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division said.
The division has been conducting an ongoing probe of the research set-aside program. As a result of the investigation, the program has been suspended, and nine others have pleaded guilty in the yearslong probe.
Kaminsky worked with fish dealer Mark Parente of the Bronx to cover up his unlawful harvest, authorities said, conducting mostly cash transactions and falsifying fishing reports filed with federal regulators. Kaminsky falsified 30 such reports in 2011, while Parente falsified corresponding dealer reports, authorities said. Parente pleaded guilty to four federal counts last year.
In all, 6,900 pounds of fluke were omitted or misidentified from fishing reports, along with 50,000 pounds of porgies, or scup, and 12,000 pounds of black sea bass, authorities said.