WASHINGTON –A federal jury in Washington, D.C., today returned guilty verdicts against Sanford Ltd., a New Zealand fishing company, on six counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). The jury also found a company employee guilty of two other charges.
According to the government’s evidence, in July 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a Port State Control examination on the fishing vessel (F/V) San Nikunau, operated by Sanford, which routinely delivers tuna to a cannery in Pago Pago, American Samoa. The examination revealed that the vessel had been making false entries and omissions in its oil record book that vessels are required to maintain accurately in order to account for their handling of oil waste generated by the vessel.
Sanford faces a maximum fine of up to $500,000 on each count, for a total potential penalty of $3.0 million. Sanford’s chief engineer, James Pogue, 52, faces up to up to 20 years for obstruction of justice and six years for knowingly failing to maintain an accurate oil record book.
Over the past five years, Sanford was paid over $24 million for tuna deliveries.
Sanford was convicted of numerous charges, including:
- Conspiracy and causing the vessel to enter to the port of Pago Pago with a falsified oil record book
- Obstruction of justice for falsely stating in the oil record book that required pollution prevention equipment had been used when it had not
- Discharging machinery space bilge waste into the port of Pago Pago without using required pollution prevention equipment
Pogue, of Idaho, who served as the chief engineer on the vessel between 2001 and 2010, was convicted of failing to maintain an oil record book for the vessel that accurately accounted for how the vessel was managing its bilge waste. In addition, he was convicted of obstruction of justice for falsifying entries in the oil record book.
Prior to the trial, Rolando Ong Vano, 51, of the Philippines, another chief engineer who worked on the vessel, pleaded guilty to charges in the case. He is to be sentenced Sept. 7, 2012.
“These verdicts hold a company and one of its chief engineers accountable for polluting the waters off American Samoa with oily waste, and then trying to cover up their acts,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “The prosecution demonstrates our commitment to enforcing environmental laws and protecting our precious natural resources.”
The verdicts, following a two-week trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, were announced by Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Investigative Service. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Kenneth E. Nelson of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick W. Yette of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.