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Feb 1, 2010 4:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Illegal fishing charges brought against East Hampton harbormaster

Feb 1, 2010 4:43 PM

Daniel Lester became the second East Hampton Town harbormaster to be arrested this month, after he was charged on January 25 by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Marine Environmental Police with two felony and five misdemeanor counts of illegal fishing.

Mr. Lester, a member of one of the oldest fishing families in East Hampton, first got caught in the DEC’s crosshairs in June, when he was found taking summer flounder commercially without a permit from pound traps that he’d placed in Gardiner’s Bay on the north side of Hither Hills State Park in Montauk. At the time, he pled guilty to fishing commercially without a permit and was fined $500, but the charge led the DEC to examine Mr. Lester’s fishing records in more detail, said DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo this week.

Mr. Lester was charged with one felony and one misdemeanor count of taking scup, which is also commonly known as porgy, during the closed season in 2008, and with one felony and two misdemeanor counts of selling summer flounder in 2009 without a commercial summer flounder permit. He was also charged with two misdemeanor counts of sale of summer flounder without a commercial permit in 2008.

The many charges are due to the fact that Mr. Lester allegedly sold varying quantities of fish to different dealers on different dates at the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, according to the DEC. Sale of more than $1,500 worth of fish constitutes a felony.

The felony charges carry a penalty of $10,000 and/or more than one year in prison and the misdemeanor counts carry a charge of $5,000 or one year in prison.

Ms. Montalvo said that Mr. Lester is expected to face an additional felony charge for the sale of $4,700 worth of summer flounder in 2007 without the summer flounder permit when he is arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on February 24. Mr. Lester was released on his own recognizance after he was given appearance tickets on January 25.

Mr. Lester is the second East Hampton Town harbormaster to be arrested this month. Senior Harbormaster Don Bousson was arrested on January 4 after police said they found half a pound of marijuana in his car. He was charged with criminal possession of marijuana in the third degree. Mr. Bousson resigned from his town post before the town could begin disciplinary proceedings against him.

Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson declined to comment on Mr. Lester’s case. He has said since the beginning of his term that he plans to not comment on pending personnel matters. Pat Breen, the head of the town’s Human Resources Department, would also not comment on whether disciplinary proceedings would be brought against Mr. Lester.

Town Building Inspector Tom Preiato, who was arrested on January 16 after an altercation with the Sag Harbor Village Police, was suspended from work for seven days on January 22.

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leave us alone. we are only tryhing to make a living. you don't care if we leave though. that is what you want.
By local (106), north sea on Feb 1, 10 5:11 PM
i guess your not a local bayman.
By local (106), north sea on Feb 3, 10 12:34 PM
the rules are the rules. like it or not. as a harbormaster he should have known better.
By fishy (92), East Hampton on Feb 4, 10 1:11 PM
as a harbor master he has the responsibility to be following the Law. he is hurting the future of the fishing industry.
By tigerbelle44 (2), East Hampton on Feb 5, 10 10:43 PM
As aHarbormaster he should be held to a higher standard but this issue is so much more complicated than that. Being forced to return dead or mortally wounded fish to the sea is rediculous policy but this is the current law.Weather you fish comercially or recreationally or just enjoy eating seafood we must get together to force the government to stop this wasteful policy and bring forth regulations fair to all including the resource.
By montaukman (98), easthampton on Feb 6, 10 6:38 PM
It is sad and a bit frightening how many people come running with torches and pitchforks without taking the time to learn the facts. The fact is; the waterways where Mr. Lester keeps his traps are owned by the East Hampton Town Trustees. Please take some time to educate yourself, go to the Town Trustee’s website (www.trustees.easthamptonny.gov) and read about the history of our Town. Read there home page where it says “Since their creation in 1686, the Trustees have continuously functioned as ...more
By Wife of a Bayman (4), East Hampton on Feb 11, 10 12:15 PM
my reading is that the patent covers the land, water, access, etc. does it cover migratory fish? I belive that is what the state and feds regulate.
By fishy (92), East Hampton on Feb 11, 10 3:39 PM
I represent the Montauk Trustee Corporation that, like the Easthampton town trustee Corporation, claims its powers of jurisdicition through the 1686 Dongan Patent.
The Patent was a colonial charter that established the Trustees of the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town of Easthampton as the government of the Town with sovereign jurisdiction not only over the fisheries but in the making, administering and enforcement of law.
The lands and waters included in the charter were ...more
By Robert A. Ficalora (1), Montauk on Apr 18, 10 1:53 PM