2 Kentucky men convicted in Oxford for illegally catching paddlefish
Published Monday 19 September 2022 at 12:00 p.m
Two Kentucky men were recently convicted by the US District Court of felonies related to the illegal harvesting of paddlefish and paddlefish from closed waters in Mississippi.
According to court documents, James Lawrence “Lance” Freeman, 27, of Eddyville, Kentucky, and Marcus Harrell, 34, of Murray, Kentucky, plead guilty to conspiring to violate the Lacey Act by sleeping between March 12 and 6. January 2018 and January 5, 2018 for the purpose of harvesting paddlefish from Moon Lake in Coahoma County, which was closed for paddlefish harvesting. Freeman or Harrell brought the harvested paddlefish roe back to Kentucky to sell to commercial processors, falsely claiming that the paddlefish had been caught in the Ohio River or other locations in or near Kentucky where paddlefish harvesting was legal .
Freeman was sentenced September 15 in Oxford by US District Judge Michael P. Mills. Freeman was sentenced to 6 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release and ordered to pay a $20,000.00 fine into the Lacey Act rewards account. Freeman, a commercial fisherman, was also banned from all fishing, both commercial and recreational, for a period of 5 years. Freeman is scheduled to report to prison on November 28.
Harrell was convicted in Oxford on July 26 before US District Judge Sharion Aycock. Harrell was sentenced to 5 years probation and ordered to pay a $7,500.00 fine into Lacey Act’s rewards account. Harrell, who is also a commercial fisherman, has been banned from fishing in the state of Mississippi for a period of 5 years and has also been banned from fishing any fish roe in every state for a period of 5 years.
Following the ruling, Edward Grace, deputy director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, stated: “The US Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement seeks to conduct criminal investigations with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks regarding fish, To conserve, protect and improve wild animals, plants and their habitats. The Office of Law Enforcement takes violations of the Lacey Act seriously. The investigations into the two defendants involved in the illegal harvesting and trafficking of paddlefish roe are no exception. We will continue to work closely with our government partners to conduct these important joint investigations.”
“I am very proud of these officers for their hard work and dedication to bringing these violators to justice,” noted Colonel Jerry Carter of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “Thank you for the combined effort of all the state and federal agencies involved. It really sends a message that illegal acts like this will not be tolerated in our state and that we will use every available workforce and equipment to protect our natural resources.”
This was announced by US Attorney Clay Joyner of the Northern District of Mississippi and Edward Grace, deputy director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the case along with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.