Local Anglers Likely to Plead Guilty to Illegal Fish Sales

By Adam Linhardt Citizen Staff

The last of five Lower Keys fishermen snared last year in a state wildlife case and accused of illegally selling fish to undercover officers will likely plead guilty in Plantation Key on April 9. Key West charter Capt. William Osgood Wickers Jr., 42, of Big Coppitt Key, has a change of plea scheduled before county Judge William Ptomey, according to court records.

Wickers is charged with 12 misdemeanor counts of selling fish to officers without a wholesale fish dealer’s license and one misdemeanor count of possession of undersized dolphin fish. Each misdemeanor carries a maximum of 60 days in county jail, but if the other cases are any indication, it is unlikely Wickers will spend the maximum 780 days in jail for all counts. Wickers and four other men were charged in the undercover Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigation into the illegal sale of finfish and lobster by charter and commercial fishermen.

The Wickers case is before Ptomey because Key West county Judges Peary Fowler and Wayne Miller recused themselves. Assistant State Attorney Colleen Dunne declined to comment.

In December, co-defendant Jesus Diaz, 42, of Big Coppitt Key, was ordered to spend two days in county jail, pay $468 restitution and perform 50 hours of marine resources-related community service.

In October, Larry Laney, 47, of Key West, pleaded guilty to two counts of dealing in saltwater products without a license and received 12 months probation, five days in jail, $495 in restitution and was banned from fishing recreationally for one year.

Derek Pierce, 32, of Big Coppitt Key, pleaded guilty to eight counts of illegal fish sales. He was sentenced to 48 months probation, 12 days in jail, $5,205 restitution and was banned for two years from fishing recreationally.

Yimis Roman, 36, of Key West pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal fish sales and one count of possessing undersized lobster. He was sentenced to 12 months probation, seven days jail, $850 in restitution and banned from recreational fishing for two years.

The restitution reflects the amount the men made from the illegal sales. None of the men lost their commercial fishing licenses, so they can still work on the water.

Laney, Pierce and Roman were fined $2,500, which was reduced to a lien, meaning they didn’t have to pay until they could afford to do so.