Three Sitka residents plead guilty to selling halibut caught under subsistence program

Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Three Sitka residents, Jesse Rivera, 43; Mario Rivera, 41; and Artimeo Rivera, 36, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to illegally selling and shipping halibut caught under the Sitka Sound Subsistence Halibut program.

Jesse Rivera's plea agreement requires that he serve a sentence of six months imprisonment and pay a fine of $40,000. Mario Rivera's agreement requires that he serve one month imprisonment, pay a $10,000 fine and forfeit a 20-foot Boston Whaler. Artimeo Rivera's plea agreement requires that he serve one month in a halfway house and pay a $5,000 fine.

Each plea agreement requires that each defendant serve three years probation with a special condition that prohibits any commercial or subsistence fishing.

The guilty pleas came about as a result of an investigation conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service's Division of Law Enforcement and was based on evidence obtained from fisheries observers and interviews that provided legal grounds for the execution of search warrants on a Seattle seafood wholesaler in 2004.

As a result of that search, federal investigators found checks and other records that established that during the summer of 2003, the Riveras shipped more than 10,000 pounds of subsistence-caught halibut to the seafood wholesaler in Seattle. In exchange for the halibut, the Riveras were paid more than $50,000.

"These actions are a total abuse of a carefully planned and managed subsistence fishery designed to assist Alaskans truly in need of subsistence halibut," said Jeff Passer, a supervisory special agent.

Sentencing was set for Aug. 21 in Anchorage.

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