Charles Wertz Jr. of East Meadow, a Long Island fisherman, has been charged by federal prosecutors with wire fraud and falsification of federal records related to the illegal harvesting of more than 86,000 pounds of fluke over three years.
Prosecutors say Wertz unlawfully harvested fluke valued at nearly $200,000 from 2009 to 2011.
There is a federal program in place allowing fisherman to buy additional quotas beyond legal limits, which Wertz manipulated. Proceeds from the program are used to fund fisheries research.
Wertz has pleaded not guilty to the charges at U.S. District Court in Central Islip on Wednesday. Prosecutors indicate they were negotiating a plea agreement with Wertz and he is due back in court later this month.
Wertz has been released on his own recognizance.
Fluke can weigh up to 26 pounds and grow as long as long as 37 inches, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, but there are recreational size and catch limits and commercial fishing limits.