By Kirsten Conley
Two cops testing night-vision goggles from an NYPD helicopter during a routine training exercise stumbled on a crab-poaching operation, police said yesterday.
Officer Lester Sanabria was piloting a helicopter about 500 feet off the ground around 9:45 p.m., when he and partner Chris Maher spotted several men loading two vessels with horseshoe crabs on an abandoned beach in Jamaica Bay Monday night, cops said.
They hovered lower down to about 200 feet off the ground and their high-tech eyewear revealed Robert Wolter, 28, and Joseph Knauer, 33, creeping along the beach, cops said. The suspects were caught following a chase past Marine Park and into Sheepshead Bayallegedly loading two vessels with endangered horseshoe crabs, Maher said.
Occupants of a second boat managed to flee.
Both men are charged with violating a federal wildlife protection measure that prohibits taking wildlife from a National Park. They will appear in Brooklyn Federal Court and face fines up to $500. Federal regulations also allow for six months in jail but law enforcement sources said that’s unlikely in this case.
The crabs fuel a $60 million-a-year market for pharmaceutical companies that process their copper-based blood to sanitize medical equipment. One quart of the blood can fetch up to $15,000, according to experts. The crabs are also used for fertilizer and fishing bait. More....