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East Hampton harbormaster faces illegal fishing charges

An East Hampton town harbormaster whose family has fished off the East End for several generations faces charges of illegal fishing, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said Wednesday.

Daniel Lester of East Hampton caught or sold more than $4,000 worth of fish out of season or without a permit from 2007 through last year, a DEC spokeswoman said.

Despite the charges, Lester remains on the job and has not resigned, Chief Harbormaster Ed Michels said.

Town Supervisor William Wilkinson declined to comment, an aide said.

Lester could not be reached to comment.

Lester's family, including his late father, Calvin, are local legends, Michels said. "If you say commercial baymen in East Hampton, it's the Lesters," he said.

Lester was charged last June with a violation for fishing for summer flounder, also known as fluke, without a commercial permit after he was seen catching the fish in Gardiners Bay off Montauk, DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo said. He pleaded guilty and paid a $500 fine, she said.

After reviewing the records of fish dealers with whom Lester did business, the DEC on Monday charged him with two felonies: taking and selling more than $1,500 worth of summer flounder without a commercial permit in 2009, and taking more than $1,500 worth of scup - or porgy - out of season in 2008.

Lester faces five misdemeanor charges of illegally catching and selling between $250 and $1,500 worth of fluke or scup in 2008 and 2009.

He will be charged with another felony, illegally selling summer flounder in 2007, when he is arraigned Feb. 24 in East Hampton Town Court.

If convicted of the felonies, Lester could face a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine for each count and/or more than a year in prison, Montalvo said.

The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor charges is $5,000 and/or one year in prison, she said.

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