On Nov 27, 2018, commercial fisherman David M. Cox was sentenced after a United States District Court accepted his plea agreement. Cox was charged with several counts, one being a violation of the "Lacey Act" - a federal law protecting wildlife - a violation he's been charged with in the past.
Cox, of Midwest Caviar, is mainly known for harvesting and selling paddlefish caviar netted from the Ohio River. By-catch of large catfish caught in Cox's nets, have been known to be stockpiled in his pond, for future sales to paylakes.
In 2001, Cox, a previously convicted wildlife felon - sat on a special board aimed to help Kentucky Fish and Wildlife rewrite the fishing rules and regulations.
Below a Facebook screenshot shows Cox seining catfish from his holding pond, with well know paylake owner, James Reed of Catfisherman's Paradise. Another Facebook screenshot shows a 73lb flathead Cox caught - that will - "go to a paylake for sure".
The Undercover Investigation
Cox faced charges after an extensive investigation, in which an Indiana Department of Natural Resources Officer worked undercover as a “helper” in Cox's commercial fishing operation. The officer was able to witness and covertly record numerous fishing violations, as well as, gun ownership violations.
Cox, a convicted felon, is no stranger to wildlife offenses. Some past convictions include - a felony, under the Lacey Act; and a misdemeanor, for illegally fishing for paddlefish. These old convictions mimic his latest disregard for the law, with the addition of illegal possession of firearm(s) by a convicted felon.
According to the prosecution, Cox's disregard of commercial fishing regulations extended beyond simply keeping and killing undersized fish. The prosecution said, "he fished wherever and however he wanted". They stated he fished in closed areas where fish congregate, contributing to overfishing. Adding, he also "underreported the fish that he caught or that died in his nets" - affecting biologists’ ability to accurately assess the health of fish species.
Cox was very forthcoming and seemingly proud of his past convictions with the undercover officer. He was particularly proud of his past assault of a conservation officer - touting his tattoo of a game warden hanging from a noose. Cox even went on to describe to the undercover, how he lured the wildlife officer into his fishing boat, drove off with the agent against his will, and after finally bringing the wildlife officer back ashore, roughed him up and took his gun.
Despite friends and family submitting more than 80 support letters to the court, Cox was sentenced to a two-year term on the charges. Cox was also ordered to pay restitution to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Fund, in the amount of $1,000.00. Along with, a special assessment of $200.00 to the United States and forfeiture of property - including his fishing boat, trailer and motor. Upon his release, Cox will be supervised for 3 years.