Soldotna man tagged in fish scam

Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2004

An advertisement on a Poacher's Cove community bulletin board led to the arrest and conviction of a Soldotna man for running an illegal fish processing and sales facility, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Richard D. Black, 49, of Soldotna, entered a plea of no contest in Kenai District Court to charges related to illegally selling salmon and halibut and operating a fish processing facility without a permit.

Black was fined $12,000 with $10,000 suspended and sentenced to 180 days in jail with 160 days suspended. Magistrate David S. Landry allowed him to serve 160 hours of community work service instead of the jail time.

He also is prohibited from any type of fishing in Alaska for two years and was placed on probation for three years.

The charges stem from an undercover investigation by the Alaska State Troopers Wildlife Investigations Unit conducted last summer, after learning that Black was offering the fish for sale.

A tipster telephoned Wild-life Enforcement troopers in Soldotna, saying Black had posted an ad at Poacher's Cove, and the troopers contacted their investigations unit to conduct the undercover operation, according to Lt. Steve Bear.

"He sold a couple of fish to an undercover guy, and it was obvious he was selling sport-caught fish," Bear said of Black.

Investigators made several purchases from Black between the first week of July 2003 and the end of August, according to Investigator Mitch Doerr.

In October, troopers served a search warrant at Black's residence.

"He was living in an apartment in Soldotna and selling fish from a chest-type home freezer," Doerr said. "Some of the salmon was sport-caught, we were told, and some may have been personal-use caught," he said.

Black and a roommate, Cecile Labadens, 45, each obtained personal-use permits. Only one is allowed per household per year.

Labadens is charged with one count of obtaining an overlimit of personal-use permits and one count of taking an overlimit of personal-use caught salmon. Her arraignment is scheduled for June 10.

According to Doerr, Labadens got her permit the day after Black got his.

Investigators filed a criminal complaint May 21 and at Black's arraignment May 27, he entered a no-contest plea to one count of operating a fish processing facility without a permit, two counts of prohibited conduct for the unlawful sale of salmon and halibut and one count of driving while license revoked.

Black also will be required to pay restitution to the state for the money he received for the illegal fish he took.

"State law says, 'No person may buy, sell or barter sport-caught fish,'" Bear said. "It's one of the shorter, more direct laws we have."

"We follow up leads we get from people. That's what got this case started."

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