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Tennessee Fish Dealers Sentenced To Federal Prison for Federal Wildlife Violations


March 27, 2003

Christine Eustis, USFWS, (404) 679-7287
Sonny Richardson, TWRA, (615) 781-6580

Jackson, TN --- Franklin and Carolyn Hale, doing business as Royaloff Caviar, in Savannah, Tennessee, were sentenced to Federal prison for six felony violations of the Lacey Act and conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Franklin Hale was sentenced to 24 months in Federal prison, fined $25,000 and ordered to pay $600 in court costs. Carolyn Hale was sentenced to 21 months in Federal prison, fined $25,000 and ordered to pay $600 in court costs. Upon release from prison, each will be placed on three years supervised release.

"These are serious crimes against important fishery resources of the State of Tennessee," said Thomas M. Riley, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Southeast Region. "We are pleased that the sentences reflect the gravity of the crimes. Tennessee's fishery resources are for everyone to appreciate and enjoy, not for certain individuals to exploit."

On May 16, 2002, the Hales were convicted by a jury after a seven day trial in which evidence was presented that they purchased paddlefish caviar which was harvested during closed Tennessee seasons and in closed waters, sold caviar in interstate commerce which was taken in violation of state laws, purchased paddlefish caviar and fish without being licensed as a wholesale fish dealer by the State of Tennessee, and created false documents to conceal the identities of fishermen and locations where the paddlefish eggs were taken. Special agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wildlife investigators from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency worked together to prepare the case against the defendants.

In addition, Wendy Haney-Melson, daughter of Franklin and Carolyn Hale, was sentenced to six months probation, fined $2,500 and ordered to pay $600 in court costs for one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act for her role in creating false documents and purchasing paddlefish caviar taken during closed seasons and from closed waters.

" Hopefully, anyone wanting to participate in the unlawful commercialization of our wildlife resources will take notice that the courts will not tolerate such activities," said Sonny Richardson, Chief of Law Enforcement for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The Lacey Act is a federal statute which makes in unlawful to sell, receive, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce, any wildlife taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any state.
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