NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A St. James man is accused of illegally buying and selling fish and venison in violation of laws aimed at conservation, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Roy Folse, 66, faces 55 counts alleging violations in Ascension, Iberville, St. James and St. John parishes, and was booked Tuesday on 31 counts in St. James Parish, enforcement spokesman Adam Einck said.
The 55 misdemeanor counts range from buying or selling game fish to taking, buying, transporting and selling commercial fish without the required licenses.
"The reason it's illegal to sell or market wild game in the United States is that if you had a market, hunters would basically wipe out most of the species. It's purely based off conservation," Einck said.
The various charges carry fines of $250 to $2,000, and jail sentences of 30 to 180 days in jail. But there are so many that the maximum sentences could total more than $80,000 and more than six years in jail. Folse allegedly bought nearly 1,900 fish and sold over 1,000.
"That's up to the judge," Einck said.
He said citations against some of Folse's biggest customers "should be coming shortly."
He said many of those sales — generally to private individuals — were in front of the undercover agents who had sold fish to Folse at his house.
"According to the report, our undercover agent would show up with the crappie and he would have people either on the premises or with a phone call, and immediately sell them," Einck said.
He said he didn't know whether Folse has an attorney or whether bond has been set.
Undercover agents have been investigating Folse since 2007, when they sold him two red snapper, Einck said.
"We already had some tips and evidence that Mr. Folse was already purchasing and selling game fish and deer meat," he said in an email.
In 2010, Folse allegedly "had heard one of our agents was in the same business as he was, so to speak, and asked if he could buy some fish from him and if he had any available," Einck said.
An offense report said "undercover agents sold Folse over 1,800 crappie and 84 bowfin. Undercover agents also witnessed Folse purchase 130 pounds of deer sausage and three deer hindquarters and sell over 1,000 crappie, 74 bowfin and two deer hindquarters," Einck wrote in a news release.
Crappie are only a game fish; bowfin, locally known as choupique, is a freshwater species that may be caught by anglers or commercial fishermen.
"There is a commercial fishery for it. But he did not possess any of the commercial fishing licenses or retail or wholesale licenses," Einck said.
In an interview, Einck said fish sold to Folse had been confiscated in other cases and kept frozen until "we feel we have enough to sell back to a potential outlaw."
"Obviously you're dealing with perishable items. I don't think anything was past its expiration date, so to speak," he said.