FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2001
Roosevelt Fountain Senior was sentenced to 30 months in jail and a $1,400 Crime Victims assessment (a fund in Louisiana that aids crime victims). His daughter and the bookkeeper for the company, Shirley Fountain Ellison, was sentenced to 37 months in jail and a $1,500 Crime Victims assessment. The inactive Fountain Seafood, Inc. was fined $5,000. In a eight-day jury trial in August 2000, Fountain Sr. was convicted of 13 of 14 felony Lacey Act violations. Ellison was convicted of 15 of 16 felony Lacey Act violations and was found guilty of Obstruction of Justice for turning over known false records to law enforcement agents and to the Grand Jury. The number of violations for which they were convicted corresponded with the number of non-resident dealers they utilized.
"We are proud of all the work that our Law Enforcement agents accomplished while working cooperatively with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Oyster Task Force," said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "This case involved lots of detailed work, field interviews, and Grand Jury testimonies, but we got results."
According to Bill Ferguson, Special Agent based in the Service's Lake Charles Office, the case involved 20,960 bags of improperly tagged oysters sold in interstate commerce to businesses ranging from Bayou LaBatre, Alabama; Apalachicola, Florida; Swan Quarter, North Carolina, and to several businesses along Virginia's eastern coast. Ferguson mentioned that the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Marine Resources Division were very helpful in researching the case.
Fountain Seafood Inc. had purchased oysters from non-residents using resident licenses. In addition, a boat registration and vessel license were purchased for a boat from an owner who had died about three months before the licenses were bought. The signature of the deceased was placed on the licenses by someone from the business. This violation of Louisiana wildlife law was never countered by the Defense during the trial. The boat was given to a friend of Fountain Sr. who fished for oysters with the falsely documented vessel and sold them to Fountain Seafood.
Through subpoenas to various employers, numerous records showed oyster fishermen who were working other jobs at the time and could not have fished oysters or have sold them for Fountain Seafood, Inc. Some fishermen admitted that they did take over limits at Fountain Sr.'s request and sell them to him. They also said they did not know whose tags were placed on any of the over limit sacks. Although most of Calcasieu Lake is closed to oyster fishing because of pollution, agents learned that fishermen did fish in the closed areas of that lake. In addition, past state citations had been issued to some members of the Fountain family for fishing in closed areas. Fountain Sr. also had previous state citations for failure to keep records and for improperly tagging oysters.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 531 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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