By Meghan McCorkell
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Fishing lands a man in federal prison. In this case, it’s 92 tons of illegally caught rockfish worth half a million dollars.
Prosecutors call that poaching scheme a multi-year criminal conspiracy. Now two fishermen will do time in federal prison.
He spent his whole life on the water, now 43-year-old Michael Hayden will spend 18 months behind bars.
The Tilghman Island fisherman was convicted in one of the largest rockfish schemes on the Eastern Shore, netting hundreds of thousands of dollars.
His partner, 41-year-old Billy Lednum, just began serving a one year sentence. He spoke with our media partner, The Baltimore Sun.
“I’m going to pay my consequences for what I’ve done. I think the rest of the people ought to think about what they were doing and never got caught,” said Lednum.
Hayden received more time than Lednum after he attempted to intimidate grand jury witnesses, telling one man: “You rolled on me, [expletive\, a man told me so. That’s OK, I will take care of your [expletive\.”
Friday, the judge told Hayden what he did was a fundamental breach of public trust with an enormous ripple effect.
“Mr. Hayden is being held justly accountable for his role at the head of a conspiracy to plunder protected striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “The Justice Department, working closely with our state partners, will continue to protect these shared resources for the law abiding watermen of the Bay with vigorous prosecution of those who do not follow the law.”
“I commend the men and women of the Natural Resources Police who, with our federal partners, are committed to upholding the laws that protect Maryland’s fish and wildlife,” said Mark Belton, Secretary-designate of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “And I thank the citizens who came forward with tips to aid this extensive investigation.”
Hayden’s attorney says the judge is sending a message.
“It’s a reasonable approach to send a message,” said Billy Murphy, defense attorney. “But we wish that this had not been the time that the message was sent.”
In addition to the 18 months that Hayden will spend behind bars, he will also do six months on home detention.
Hayden and Lednum have also been ordered to pay nearly $500,000 in restitution. Video.