Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced Wednesday that John Anthony Wilson pleaded no contest to four felony counts of grand theft of aqua-cultural product.
The case arose from a California Fish & Wildlife investigation whereby Wilson was caught stealing crabs from other fishermen’s holding tanks in the Santa Barbara Harbor on multiple occasions.
In addition to his felony plea, Wilson pleaded to five various misdemeanor Fish & Game Code and California Code of Regulations violations stemming from his conduct of: fishing species out of season, failing to service traps within the appropriate amount of time, and failing to maintain proper accounting records and landing receipts of his commercial catch. Wilson would then transport and peddle his stolen or undocumented catch at the Hollywood and local fish markets.
In exchange for his plea, Wilson agreed to three years of felony probation and 180 days in the County Jail. The terms and conditions of his probation will also require Wilson to pay restitution to the victims and investigation costs to California Fish and Wildlife.
Sentencing is set to occur Oct. 28, after which time Wilson will not be allowed to fish, commercially or otherwise, until any pending Fish & Wildlife Fishing Commission action related to this case is completed.
“This case demonstrates Santa Barbara County’s dedication to our fishing community, and to those fishermen who do their utmost to abide by all the laws and regulations in the course of their profession that help protect our local resources,” Deputy District Attorney Kevin Weichbrod said.