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US Restaurants & Distributors Fined For Selling Undersized Tuna

Three restaurants and seven individuals on May 5 were issued fines totaling $100,000 on charges related to the alleged sale or purchase of undersized Atlantic bluefin tuna, according to a special agent with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service Office for Law Enforcement.

The fines, which were issued as civil infractions, stem from a two-year federal investigation in the Ogunquit area regarding the sale of bluefin tuna to local restaurants without valid permits, according to special agent Chris Schoppmeyer of NOAA fisheries service, who was an investigator in the case.

"These fish were found to be sold directly from the fishers who brought them to these businesses," said Schoppmeyer during a May 20 phone interview. "Those businesses were required to have the permit."

According to Schoppmeyer, the businesses and individuals facing fines for receiving Atlantic bluefin tuna without a permit, or for receiving the tuna for commercial purposes without having a permit, are as follows:

Jackie's Too Restaurant, Ogunquit, fined $10,000; Five-O Shore Road Restaurant, Ogunquit, fined $10,000; Angelina's Ristorante, Ogunquit, fined $5,000; Executive Chef of Jackie's Too, Peter Bevins, of Cape Neddick, fined $10,000; Executive Chef of Five-O, Zachary Crosby, of Ogunquit, fined $15,000; Executive Chef and owner of Angelina's Ristorante, David Giarusso Jr., of Ogunquit, fined $5,000; and Wayne Wescott, of Cape Neddick, owner of the Front Porch Cafe, fined $5,000.

Crosby also was issued a fine on a charge of making a false statement during the investigation, Schoppmeyer said.

Also facing fines related to the sale of illegally sized bluefin tuna, Schoppmeyer said, are William McIntire, of Cape Neddick, facing $15,000 in fines; Glenn Perkins, of Cape Neddick, facing $15,000 in fines; and Michael Lorusso, of Wells, facing $10,000 in fines.

Perkins is a fisherman affiliated with the vessel "Mary E." out of Ogunquit. Lorusso, is a fisherman affiliated with the vessel "All In" out of Wells.

Some fishers have resorted to selling fish illegally because the number of eligible sized tuna has decreased, and for economic reasons, Schoppmeyer said. Fish are cut into loins and sold to dealers without permits to avoid a paper trail, he said.

"As far as the impact on the (tuna) resources it should serve as a deterrent for those individuals who seek to personally profit from the exploitation of our living marine resources, specifically Atlantic bluefin tuna," Schoppmeyer said. "It serves to have addressed a problem that existed for a number of years in that area."

When reached for a phone interview, Giarusso, of Angelina's Ristorante, said he was unaware of the laws when he purchased about 10 tuna loins from an unspecified seller a few years ago.

"Do you think I need to make $200 dollars to jeopardize my restaurant, my career and the possibility of getting fined?," Giarusso asked. "Honestly I don't need the $200 dollars."

Giarusso said he doesn't understand why federal agents are targeting businesses in town, and that he believed he was doing a "nice local service" for patrons.

"I'm boggled by this," he said. "I have no idea why they are doing this."

Donato Tramuto, an incumbent Select Board candidate and president of Prego LLC, the holding company of Five-O, said he was not aware Five-O chef Crosby had purchased the tuna.

Tramuto said the company conducted its own investigation into the incident, learning the situation was isolated. Crosby was reprimanded, but not fired, he said, adding that while the company takes responsibility for the incident, there was a lack of awareness of the law.

Calls to Bevins, Wescott and Crosby were not returned. McIntire, Perkins and Larusso could not be reached for comment.