After stopping an unlicensed commercial fishing vessel near Freeport in April of 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard discovered 1,900 pounds of red snapper. An investigation began further into the matter and was taken on by Texas Game Wardens.
It turns out the initial bust was just the beginning. There was an entire network they uncovered, which illegally caught and distributed 28,000 pounds of fish. These fish included red snapper, tuna, amberjack, grouper and red snapper, which were sold at a profit of over $400,000.
The extensive investigation involved Texas Game Wardens, the National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration special agents and the U.S. Coast Guard, and resulted in the issuing of over 200 Class C misdemeanor citations.
“This is a big deal and exemplifies the critically important work our Texas game wardens do to protect the state’s natural resources,” said Col. Craig Hunter, TPWD law enforcement director. “Not only did these unscrupulous actors violate recreational fishing regulations at an extreme level for personal profit, but they also circumvented restrictions and rules governing the possession, safe handling and sale of commercial aquatic products intended for human consumption.”
The fish had allegedly been purchased by Bruce Molzan, who then sold the fish to two restaurants, Ruggles Black and Ruggles Green.
Ruggles Green made the following statement after everything came to light:
Today, Texas Parks & Wildlife announced findings from an investigation of an illegal seafood network allegedly involving former Ruggles Green co-owner, Bruce Molzan. As of October 1, 2016, Ruggles Green is under new ownership and since that time Mr. Molzan has not been an owner, or involved in the management or operations of the company.
Under its new ownership, Ruggles Green has not served any illegal seafood, has not received any citations in connection with this investigation and ensures lawful and sustainable practices. We stand behind our processes to provide guests with the highest quality of food.
“That is not something we in law enforcement will tolerate and we are confident these individuals will be prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows,” said Hunter.