Two OceanPro employees sentenced in striped bass poaching scheme

Two Maryland seafood dealers and the largest fish wholesaler in Washington will have to pay fines and restitution of nearly $890,000 for their part in what prosecutors and a federal judge have labeled the largest commercial fish poaching scheme in the history of the Chesapeake Bay.

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte sentenced OceanPro Industries Ltd., also known as Profish, to pay $575,000 in fines for buying tens of thousands of pounds of fish that were out-of-season or oversized. The scheme ran from 1995 to 2007.

Profish vice president Timothy Lydon of Bethesda was sentenced to 21 months in prison and fined $60,000. Company fish buyer Benjamin Clough of Grasonville was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $7,500. The men and the organization also were sentenced to three year's supervised probation and will be responsible for $300,000 in restitution to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and its Virginia counterpart.

In a five-week trial last summer, a federal jury in Greenbelt found all three guilty of violations of the Lacey Act, which prohibits people or organizations from transporting, selling or buying fish and wildlife harvested illegally.

"Is it Bernie Madoff? Maybe not," said Messitte. "But this is serious business."

A task force of federal and state lawyers and undercover officers spent five years investigating the black market operation. The sting resulted in the conviction of 19 men and three corporations.

— Candus Thomson