Michigan Aquarium Store Operator Sentenced for Lacey Act Violation

Richard Perrin, owner-operator of Tropicorium, was sentenced to three years probation, a criminal fine of $15,000, and forfeiture of the vehicle used in the commission of Lacey Act violations of which he was accused and plead guilty. Perrin was engaged in the purchase and retail sale of marine life and reptiles, including sharks, marine invertebrates, tropical aquarium fishes, and alligators.

What is being viewed by many as a relative light sentence is, according to the District Attorney’s Officew, “based on Perrin’s extensive cooperation and assistance in the investigation and prosecution of others.” Perrin’s co-defendant, Joseph Franko, is awaiting sentence in Key West on April 14, 2014, at 10:00 a.m.

The following is taken verbatim from the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida:

According to the indictment and joint factual statements submitted to the Court, during the period extending from December 2008 through approximately December 2011, Perrin and Franko engaged in a conspiracy to purchase, harvest, and transport marine life and reptiles from Florida to Michigan for sale through a business known as Tropicorium, Inc. Perrin was the owner Tropicorium, engaged in the day-to-day management and operation of the corporation, while Franko was an employee. Tropicorium was organized in 1993 under the laws of Michigan with its principal place of business in Romulus. Tropicorium was engaged in the purchase and retail sale of marine life and reptiles, including sharks, marine invertebrates, Sea Fans (Gorgonia flabellum and Gorgonia ventalina), ornamental tropical fish, and alligators.

The defendants admitted that they failed to acquire or possess the licenses required by Florida Statute for the marine life they harvested during multiple trips to the Florida Keys. Additionally, the sea fans taken by the defendants and sold in Michigan are prohibited from being harvested from the waters of the State of Florida or the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. According to the factual statements, Perrin and Franko also made stops while en route to and from the Keys in the area of Big Cypress National Preserve, where they illegally poached juvenile alligators to sell through Tropicorium. Unknown to the defendants, on one occasion they actually sold a baby alligator and illegal sea fans from a Florida harvesting trip to an undercover Special Agent of the Fish & Wildlife Service. The two defendants also utilized a facility on Grassy Key as a maintenance base for their harvested marine life until they were ready to ship or transport the specimens to Michigan for sale.

Mr. Ferrer commended the joint investigative efforts of the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Antonia Barnes.

About Ret Talbot

Ret Talbot is a freelance writer who covers fisheries at the intersection of science and sustainability. His work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Mongabay, Discover Magazine, Ocean Geographic and Coral Magazine. He lives on the coast of Maine with his wife, scientific illustrator Karen Talbot.
This entry was posted in Forida, Litigation, Ornamental Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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