By Kevin Wadlow
A former Lower Keys commercial fisherman who served a federal prison sentence for running a massive lobster-poaching operation was ticketed by state marine officers Thursday.
David W. Dreifort, 47, now of Vero Beach, was issued a citation for possessing a commercial quantity of lobster without being able to produce a valid commercial license, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report says.
Dreifort was questioned by FWC officers in a 1 p.m. boating check near Sawyer Key, on the bayside of Cudjoe Key. A computer check showed the 20-foot Action Craft boat, registered to Dreifort, has been issued a valid saltwater products license.
The boat held more than 140 lobsters when checked, FWC Officers Andy Cox and John Martino reported. Dreifort was ticketed for not having the fishing license aboard while commercially harvesting lobster.
He also was cited for having license numbers, displayed on visible placards, that were smaller than state rules require. Officers issued warnings for improper dive-flag display and inadequate life-jacket markings.
Dreifort was sentenced to a two-and-a-half-year federal prison term in 2009 for leading a ring that illegally harvested thousands of lobster from manmade underwater habitats called casitas.
He also was banned from commercial fishing for five years, and forfeited several boats and vehicles so they could be sold to finance the removal of the casitas from the ocean bottom.
At the time, authorities described Operation Freezer Burn as the largest lobster-poaching operation ever uncovered. Five people, including Dreifort and wife Denise, pleaded guilty. Another defendant was convicted at trial.