SALE OF SPORT-CAUGHT FISH NETS MULTIPLE CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS FOR TWO COLUMBUS-AREA RESIDENT
COLUMBUS, OH -- Two Columbus-area residents were recently convicted of buying and selling sport-caught fish, following an investigation by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Under state wildlife laws, only commercially caught fish may be sold in Ohio.
David E. Crockett, 63, of Columbus, and Naser Saleh, 43, of Upper Arlington were convicted in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and the Franklin County Municipal Court of a variety of misdemeanors and felonies involving the trafficking of sport-caught white bass. Saleh is the owner of Frebis Food Center, located on the south end of Columbus.
The investigation began in 2005 when an anonymous source revealed that a local grocery store was selling native Ohio sport-caught fish. Undercover wildlife investigators, with assistance from the Ohio Bureau of Investigation, entered the store and purchased white bass, crappie and bluegill from May 2005 until May 2007. Saleh had been purchasing the sport-caught fish from David E. Crockett and then illegally selling them to retail customers.
Crockett was found guilty of catching white bass from Ohio waters, mostly the Sandusky River, during their spawning run each spring. His catches numbered as many as 3,000 fish a year. A search warrant was executed at his residence in Columbus and his fish hauling trailer along with fishing poles, fishing tackle, and fish were seized.
In Ohio, the sale of sport-caught fish can range from a fourth-degree misdemeanor to a fifth-degree felony, depending on the amount of fish sold.
Crockett was charged in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas with a total of two fifth-degree felony charges for selling white bass, one fourth-degree felony for carrying a concealed weapon, and one third-degree felony for tampering with evidence. Saleh was charged in the Franklin County Municipal Court with three fourth-degree misdemeanors for selling white bass. Both men entered guilty pleas to all charges.
The defendants were sentenced to pay a total of $22,041 in fines, court costs and restitution. They were also levied five years and nine months in jail, with the jail time suspended for a five-year probationary period. Community service and loss of fishing privileges were also included in the sentences.
The City of Columbus Board of Health assisted the Division of Wildlife in the investigation.
Anyone observing or suspecting that wildlife violations are occurring may report illegal activity by calling the Turn-In-A-Poacher (TIP) hotline toll free at 1-800-POACHER.
Defendants, charges, and sentences in the case are:
David E. Crockett, 63, of Columbus, was convicted by Judge Richard A. Frye of two fifth-degree felony counts of selling white bass, one fourth-degree felony count of carrying a concealed weapon and one third-degree felony count of tampering with evidence. He was ordered to pay $18,110 in restitution. He was also sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison with the time suspended for a five-and-a-half year probationary period. He may not fish in any waters within, or adjacent to, the state of Ohio for the rest of his life, nor purchase an Ohio fishing license. He may not possess native Ohio wildlife and is subject to random inspections. He was ordered to forfeit all items seized from his residence.
Naser Saleh, 43, of Upper Arlington, was convicted of three fourth-degree misdemeanors of buying white bass. He was ordered to pay $2,981 in fines, costs, and restitution and to complete 16 hours of community service with the Franklin County Board of Health litter pick up program. A 90-day jail sentence was suspended and Saleh was placed on five years probation. He may not possess native Ohio fish or other native Ohio Wildlife and is subject to random inspections.