By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
SEVENTEEN Dominicans were fined a collective $96,000 yesterday in Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to six poaching related charges.
Remon Sanchez, the 46-year-old captain of the 70-foot Rubi-1 fishing vessel apprehended by Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers on December 14, was fined $50,000 by Magistrate Renee McKay on the charge of “engaging in foreign fishing in the exclusive fishing zone of the Bahamas.”
The alternative to the fine is one-year in custody at Her Majesty’s Prison, Fox Hill.
As for 53-year-olds Reynaldo Cueva and Jose Cabrerra, who were revealed to have antecedents, they were fined $5,000 each or faced with a year in prison.
The three men, along with countrymen Ruddy cross, 43; Marca Palanco, 31; Rafael Ventura, 48; Ariel Martinez, 24; Nuily Molina, 27; Manuel Ulloa, 25; Eryemio Vasquez, 40; Esteban Berzan, 36; Carlos Acevedo; 31, Humberto Ventura, 28; Luis Santuna, 25; Eddy Aria, 38; and Joan Silberio all appeared before Magistrate McKay on six poaching related offences committed on December 14.
All 17 defendants, of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, pleaded guilty to: engaging in foreign fishing in the exclusive fishing zone of the Bahamas, possession of prohibited apparatus, possession of fresh Nassau Grouper, possession of Nassau Grouper weighing less than three pounds each, possession of clipped (egg-bearing) crawfish, and possession of crawfish measuring less than three and one quarter inches.
On the day in question, RBDF officers arrested the men on a 70-foot fishing vessel, but 33 other poachers who were on smaller skiffs, headed for the Cuban boarder to avoid capture after being spotted fishing illegally in waters near Cay Lobos.
Yesterday, attorney Jomo Campbell made a plea in mitigation on behalf of his clients and the remaining unrepresented defendants.
He said that economic hardship was a shared concern for the defendants and that “some of them, without counsel, admitted their guilt and remorse at the earliest opportunity.
“They came here desirous of not wasting the court’s time” he said, adding that they also saved the court unnecessary expenses.
“These men are all aware of the seriousness of the offence. They accept that but for the conditions they are subjected to back home, they would have not been in Bahamian waters.”
“They did not turn to any serious crimes like violent crimes against persons. They turned to fishing,” he added.
“These men were not poaching for a party. It is the means they use to support their families. Their proverbial hands were tied,” the attorney concluded before asking the court to have mercy and not render a custodial sentence.
In response, Magistrate McKay levied a $50,000 fine against Captain Sanchez on the first charge, and $5,000 fine each for Cueva and Cabrera, with the stipulation that they will serve a year in prison if they fail to pay the fine.
For the remaining defendants, concerning the first charge, they were each fined $1,000 or threatened with one-year imprisonment.
On the remaining five charges, Sanchez was fined $3,000 on each charge with one year imprisonment as the alternative.
The remaining 16 Dominicans will each serve three months in prison if they do not pay $250 for each of the remaining charges they pleaded guilty to.
The magistrate further ordered the confiscation of the vessel and fishing equipment used by the poachers.