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Federal Criminals

Three American seafood dealers and one Honduran lobster-fleet owner are currently doing hard time for importing lobster tails that were the wrong size and that were packaged in clear plastic bags rather than in cardboard boxes. They ran afoul of the Lacey Act, a federal statute that makes it a crime to import fish or wildlife taken "in violation of any foreign law."

The U.S. government argued that they had broken Honduran law because some of the lobster tails—3 percent, to be exact—were less than five and a half inches long, and because a Honduran regulation required that the lobster tails be packed in boxes. Yet Honduran officials testified that no laws had been violated.

Nonetheless, Blandford, McNab (the Honduran national), and Schoenwetter, three small-business men with no previous criminal records, were sentenced in 2001 to eight-year terms. Their "partner in crime," Huang, got off easy: two years' incarceration for the mother of two young children.

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This story of regulation going sour probably inspired Ayn Rand to write "The Virtue of Shellfishness"

*ducks*