By Adam Linhardt
A federal judge extended the probation Monday of a former commercial lobster fisherman who was banned from fishing and served more than two years in federal prison in the largest poaching case in Keys history.
David Dreifort, 47, found himself afoul of the law again in August after being cited for improperly displaying a dive flag, not displaying his buoy color on the top of a commercial fishing vessel, and having no commercial fishing license while diving for lobster off Cudjoe Key, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports.
U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez agreed with prosecutors and a defense attorney who called for Dreifort's probation to be extended from July to October 2015 in light of the violations.
Dreifort's wife, Denise Dreifort, was also ordered to surrender her commercial crawfish license, which the government said David was using when he was cited by the FWC in August while fishing for lobster.
Dreifort violated his supervised prison-release conditions, which ban him from fishing in southern Florida waters, according to court records.
Dreifort is prohibited from operating a vessel within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for five years under the special conditions of his federal supervision, according to court documents.
Dreifort and his wife served federal prison sentences for spearheading a ring of fishermen who poached lobsters from illegally and intentionally submerged habitats called casitas. In court proceedings, federal prosecutors referred to the swath of such habitats on the north side of the Keys as the "casita curtain."
Officials from NOAA identified 297 sites where Dreifort placed the casitas. Some sites had only one unit, and others had multiple casitas.
The investigation into that ring, dubbed "Operation Freezer Burn" by federal agents, led to multiple arrests of charter and commercial fishermen in the Lower Keys, as well as seafood purveyors and businesses.
Dreifort was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and three years parole. His wife was sentenced to seven months in prison and three years parole.
Dreifort was released from prison July 2, 2012.