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Two Men Involved in Illegal Interstate Oyster Commerce Sentenced in Gulfport Court


September 5, 2003

Stephen Clark, 985/641-6209
Tom MacKenzie, 404/679-7291

Gulfport, Mississippi: Two men arrested for their involvement in the illegal interstate commerce of oysters have been sentenced in the Southern District Court of Mississippi. William Epperson, Captain of the vessel Ms. Emie was sentenced September 3, 2003, for commerce involving 3,235 sacks of oysters with a market value of about $84,110. Donnie Diket, a deck hand, was sentenced on August 6, 2003, for commerce involving 58 sacks of oysters with a market value 1,508. From early June 2002 until early August 2002, Epperson and others knew that oysters had been taken in Louisiana and had been and were intended to be transported, purchased, and received from Louisiana to Mississippi in violation of the Lacey Act which regulates interstate commerce.

“This successful joint Lacey Act investigation was conducted by agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division. Our agencies have a long history of working together,” said Stephen Clark, Special Agent in the Service’s Slidell, Louisiana Field Office. “When different agencies share their knowledge, skills, resources and equipment, great strides can be made toward protecting and conserving our natural resources and sending a message to the violators.”

Both Epperson and Diket were sentenced on single felony count violations of the Lacey Act.

U.S. District Court Judge Walter J. Gex, III sentenced Epperson to 51 months in federal prison, three years of supervised probation, $2, 500 in fines, and $2,015 restitution to commercial fishermen. In addition, Epperson is banned from commercial fishing during his three years of supervised probation.

Diket was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Walter J. Gex, III to five months incarceration in a federal prison, three years of supervised probation, $2,500 in fines, and $2,015 restitution to commercial fishermen.

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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System that encompasses 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices, and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores national 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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