Making a Federal Case Out of It
Regulation by prosecution
(Roman Genn)


In 1999, federal fisheries agents received an anonymous tip by fax. The fax claimed that David McNab was importing lobsters from Honduras that were packed in clear plastic bags, not the cardboard boxes prescribed by Honduran law, and that some of the lobster tails were undersized.

Acting on the tip, the feds seized a $4 million shipment of lobster tails and charged McNab and three of his customers with felonies for violating and conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, which forbids taking wildlife in violation of local laws and regulations. They also charged McNab et al. with smuggling, because the lobster importation violated the Lacey Act, and money laundering, for depositing the proceeds of smuggling. The Honduran government intervened on behalf of the defendants, contending that they had done no serious wrong and that the Honduran regulations were void or had been repealed. But the four were convicted of multiple federal felonies, and three of them received eight years each in federal prison.

August 19, 2013    |     Volume LXV, No. 15

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