Months after two members of the Gosman family pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy charges in connection with an alleged illegal fishing operation in Montauk, federal authorities on Tuesday filed new charges against a fisherman previously indicted in the case.
The Department of Justice Tuesday filed a superseding indictment against Montauk fisherman Christopher Winkler, charging him with illegally harvesting considerably larger amounts of fluke and black sea bass than originally alleged, in a scheme authorities said involved two counts of mail fraud, two counts of obstruction and a conspiracy and mail fraud count.
The new indictment alleges Winkler caught and sold more than $850,000 worth of illegal fish to several fish dealers. The original indictment had charged Winkler with selling $240,000 worth of illegal fish.
Asa and Bryan Gosman had pleaded guilty in November to a single count each of criminal conspiracy in the case. They were managers of the family-owned Bob Gosman Co. Inc., which in December pleaded guilty to two counts of Lacey Act Fish Trafficking violations in the case and was sentenced to 4 years' probation and a $50,000 fine, according to court records.
Peter Smith, an attorney for Winkler, didn’t immediately provide a comment in response to Newsday questions about the new charges. Previously he said Winkler "maintains his innocence."
Kendall Mitchell, a spokesman for the Justice Department, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. George Stamboulidis, an attorney for Asa and Bryan Gosman, didn’t respond to messages.
According to the newly filed indictment, Winkler, captain of the Montauk trawler New Age, sold over-the-limit fish to three companies that were referred to by pseudonyms. One of the companies, referred to as MontaukCo, is a wholesale and retail seafood business in Montauk that operated a dock, cold storage and fishing pack-out facilities.
The new indictment alleges Winkler offloaded his catch with MontaukCo, and some of it was brought to the other entities operating from the Bronx-based Fulton Fish Market. The papers allege Winkler, from May 2014 through March 2017, conspired with the companies to defraud the United States by falsifying records and documents required by regulators to document fish landing and sales data.
The indictment alleged that he illegally overharvested at least 200,000 pounds of fluke and 20,000 pounds of black sea bass on about 220 fishing trips.
In a statement, the Justice Department said the case stemmed from a "multi-year, ongoing investigation into fisheries fraud on Long Island," one that has already resulted in federal charges against more than half a dozen men, some of whom have already served prison sentences. Only one case, that of Northport fisherman Thomas Kokell, went to trial and it ended in a mistrial and a deferred-prosecution agreement in which the charges were dismissed.