(Editor’s note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law, and it is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the state of New York’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.)
Illegal clams and lobster seizure
(New York County)
On Feb. 24, ECOs Spencer Noyes, Adam Johnson, and John Rich performed commercial fish market inspections in Manhattan’s Chinatown. At one of the locations, the facility did not have proper tags for 50 pounds of Manila clams. The clams were seized and properly disposed of on-site. The market was issued a summons for possession of untagged shellfish. When the officers entered the market next door, Noyes noticed several undersized lobsters in live tanks. The three officers measured the lobsters to ensure they were of legal size; 21 were found to be undersized. That market was issued a summons for offering undersized lobsters for sale. Both cases are returnable to the Manhattan Court on May 24, and the lobsters were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission in Manhattan to help feed the homeless of New York City.
Good ice, bad angler
A daytime high of approximately 70 degrees on Feb. 24 marked the third day of unseasonably warm temperatures in Sullivan County. With ice melting fast, ECO Travis McNamara was surprised to see a few brave ice fishermen out on Swan Lake in Liberty. After crossing the thin ice near the shore, McNamara made his way out to the fishermen. While checking on a group of two fishermen, another lone fisherman eagerly approached McNamara to show his license and catch, and to point out his seven tip-ups. McNamara followed the fisherman’s tracks back to where he had been fishing, and found six additional tip-ups partially hidden in piles of slush and ice. The fisherman initially stated that the tip-ups belonged to his wife, but later admitted to fishing with a total of 13 tip-ups. McNamara issued the fisherman a ticket for using more than seven lines while ice fishing, returnable to Liberty Town Court.
On Feb. 28, ECO Tom Koepf was contacted by DEC dispatchers to respond to an illegal burn in the town of Wawarsing. Upon his arrival, the officer observed a large burn in progress in the backyard of the residence. After interviewing the homeowner, who admitted to starting the fire, Koepf inspected the materials. The fire included a mattress box spring, old furniture and several bags of household garbage. The subject was issued a ticket for illegal burning of prohibited material. The ECO then extinguished the fire with a nearby garden hose and educated the man about burning regulations in New York state. The ticket was returnable to Wawarsing Town Court.
Posted and enforced
On Feb. 25, ECOs Josh Sulkey and Jeannette Bastedo responded to a trespassing complaint in the town of Saugerties. The ECOs are familiar with the property because of frequent trespassers on the posted land, which borders state land. Hikers frequently trespass and use private land against the property owners’ wishes. A short time after the ECOs responded they observed a group exit the private property onto the roadway within feet of multiple posted signs. The ECOs confronted the group regarding their route in and out of the property. The group admitted to walking directly between two “posted” signs, but were shocked to receive a ticket because they “didn’t think it was actually enforced.” The tickets for trespassing on posted land were returnable to Saugerties Town Court.
Too many lies, too many crappies
On Feb. 28, ECO Mark Colesante received an anonymous tip that fishermen were catching and keeping over the legal limit of black crappies on the Oneida River. Knowing that the location is private, secluded, and a fishing hotspot, Colesante called ECO Don Damrath for assistance. The two officers watched the fishermen reel in a few fish and head for their truck. The ECOs met the fishermen at the truck just as they were dumping hundreds of fish from their buckets into a cooler. The men claimed half of the crappies were caught the day before, but couldn’t produce any evidence. Colesante and Damrath issued summonses for possessing over-the-limit and undersized crappies, returnable to Clay Town Court.
Air and ground pollution
On March 2, ECOs Rob Howe and Mike Unger responded to a location in Freeport at the request of the Nassau County fire marshal. The site is home to several businesses, including an auto body shop and an auto repair business. The ECOs found multiple containers of waste oil leaking into the ground, and open buckets of waste oil that had the potential to be released into the environment. The waste oil was not properly contained on concrete slabs and was leaking directly into the soil, potentially contaminating groundwater. The ECOs also found that the auto body business had been painting cars without proper ventilation and without the required DEC air quality permit. Painting cars without proper ventilation and filtering allows hazardous paint fumes to be released directly into the environment. The individuals responsible for the violations were charged with the improper disposal of waste oil, polluting state waters in contravention of standards, depositing a noisome or unwholesome substance on or near a highway, and operating an air contaminate source without a permit. The case was pending in the First District Nassau County Court.
C&D debris in a trout stream
On March 1, ECO Myles Schillinger was patrolling in the town of Ulster when he observed a large pile of debris on the banks of the Sawkill Creek. Schillinger contacted ECO Jeannette Bastedo, who responded with DLE intern Abigail Bartholomew. The ECOs interviewed the property owner and inspected the debris, which included lumber, fiberglass materials, a tarp, plastic objects, PVC piping, carpeting and drywall. The property owner admitted to attempting to fill in the bank of the Class A trout stream to enlarge his property. The property owner was issued tickets for disturbing a protected stream and unlawful disposal of solid waste, returnable to Ulster Town Court. The property owner agreed to clean up the materials and properly dispose of them.
Shark fins at Fulton Fish Market
On March 2 at 1:30 a.m., Lt. Jesse Paluch, Investigator Sara Komonchak, and ECOs Chris Macropoulos and Waldemar Auguscinski arrived at Fulton Fish Market in response to an earlier inspection of the facility that uncovered illegal commercialization of shark fins. Working undercover, Paluch and Komonchak identified a fish market offering a thresher shark tail fin for sale. Once a price was established, Macropoulos and Auguscinski arrived in uniform and seized the shark tail fin. Under the Environmental Conservation Law, detached shark fins, including tail fins, cannot be legally possessed, sold or offered for sale. The company was issued a notice of violation.
Illegal goose hunting
On March 4, ECOs Joshua Sulkey and Jeannette Bastedo checked several different groups of goose hunters in a natural area in Ulster County. Several groups complained about how close another group was shooting near a house. Sulkey spoke with the homeowner, who advised him that they did not want anybody shooting so close to their home. The ECOs determined where each of the three hunters had shot from after finding fresh wad cups and spent shell casings. All three of the hunters were within 500 feet of the residence. One of the hunters stated that he usually shoots closer to the house and believed that he was allowed to shoot within 250 feet of a home if using a shotgun. The ECOs explained the waterfowl and firearms regulations to the three hunters. All three were ticketed for discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and for the illegal taking of Canada geese, returnable to Marbletown Town Court.