A federal grand jury has indicted a Cameron Parish company and 12 individuals with illegal harvesting and selling raw oysters in violation of the Lacey Act, according to Acting United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook.
Charged in the indictment was Bay Fresh Oyster Company with its principal place of business in San Leon, Texas, and which also maintained and operated a location in Cameron.
With the exception of one defendant from Lake Charles, all of those indicted were from Cameron.
Indicted were Brandon Kent Duhon, 24, Lake Charles; Adley Leo Dyson, 48; Clarence Dyson III, 46; Kirk Patrick Daigle, 47; Kent Anthony Duhon, 58; Robert Alton Watson, 41; Kerwin Tyler Perry, 25; Jenson Kyle Griffith, 28; Kasey Lyn Mock, 28; Terry Wayne Dickens, 41; Phillip Cecil Dyson, 59; and Phillip Cecil Dyson II, 38.
The indictment alleged that from about March 1, 2019, through May 5, 2019, BFO and the 12 named co-defendants conspired to harvest raw oysters from Calcasieu Lake in violation of Louisiana law and knowingly made and submitted and caused to be submitted, false records for those harvested oysters that were intended to be transported in interstate commerce.
According to the indictment, defendants knowingly engaged in conduct that involved the sale and purchase of oysters knowing they had been taken in violation of the laws and regulations of Louisiana.
The indictment further alleges that oysters were not reported as required; oysters were harvested in amounts in excess of those authorized by state law to be harvested; oysters were harvested during illegal harvesting hours; oysters were not refrigerated within the required time by state law; oysters were harvested by those who failed to possess a valid Calcasieu Lake Harvest Permit or whose permit had been revoked; oysters were falsely reported as being harvested by those with valid permits; and oysters were harvested from oysters closed to oyster harvesting.
Additionally, the indictment said the illegally harvested oysters were then sold by the harvester and purchased by BFO at its Cameron location where records were falsified to reflect the oysters had been harvested in compliance with Louisiana law.
BFO subsequently transported those oysters across state lines to its facility in San Leon, Texas. Sacks of oysters were not tagged prior to removal from the vessels as required by Louisiana law but were later tagged by BFO employees and agents as being harvested by harvesters other than the actual harvesters.
According to the indictment, oysters had been harvested by harvesters with revoked permits, were harvested in excess of the sack limit set by Louisiana law and/or were harvested outside the harvesting hours set by Louisiana law.
The indictment alleged that the harvesting and dealing in raw oysters in violation of state law specifically violated the federal Lacey Act, which among other things, makes it unlawful to transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate commerce any fish or wildlife that is taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any state.
An indictment is an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The initial appearances for the defendants has been set for March 10.
The U.S. Department of Wildlife & Fisheries and Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries are conducting the investigation and Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. Ayo is prosecuting this case.