#News: Miami man bond set at $1.4 million for lobster violations

#News: Miami man bond set at $1.4 million for lobster violations

By Becky Herrinwith Jason Koler

Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Wilfredo “Willie” Guerra plays defense. His job is to protect the natural resources of the Florida Keys and this past weekend he arrested a Miami man possessing of nearly 250 undersized lobster tails.“It feels awesome,” Guerra told the Weekly. “If you think about all the commercial fishermen and their families that it is affecting. This guy is basically taking $10,000 a month from these families.”The man – identified as 59 year old Jorge Vargas of Miami has been arrested multiple times over the past few years on the same type of violations.Most recently in 2011 for the same crimes. However, due to a clerical typo on his warrant he avoided incarceration for the past few years.This past weekend his luck ran out. Acting on a tip from a resident of the KOA campground on Fiesta Key, Guerra began surveillance last Friday night. He witnessed a white Carolina skiff with one male occupant. The man appeared to be pulling traps, then wringing lobster tails and placing them into a mesh bag. As the deputy watched, the man threw two bags full of wrung tails onto the shoreline from his boat, then returned to the bay where he continued pulling traps.At 6 a.m., Deputy Guerra watched the man repeat the process of pulling up to shore,wringing tails and throwing bags of tails onto the shore.The man then drove his vessel to the marina and docked it. He got into a black FordRanger truck and drove to the shoreline to pick up the bags of lobster. At that point,Deputy Guerra confronted him.Vargas was caught with 267 wrung tails. Out of those, 246 were undersized. He was cited for possession of undersized lobster, possession of over the limit lobster and possession of wrung lobster tails. Vargas was booked into jail on the charges.A records check revealed Vargas had been cited two times before during the past three years in the Florida Keys; those previous cases also involved possession of over 300 wrung tails and with possessing stone crab out of season.While Vargas was being held in jail, a warrant was issued for him Monday for failure to appear in court for one of the previous cases from 2011. The judge set bond on the warrant at $1.4 million – an astronomical figure.“I have reason to believe he was pulling 150 traps a day for what could’ve been years,” Guerra said. He also issued a warning to other thieves.“We know there are currently several trap robbers working out of Marathon that we are actively working,” he added. “We work these cases pretty closely with FWC. Both state and county are looking for poachers and this is no longer a slap on the hand.”To report suspicious activity call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-346-TIPs or contact a detective at the Marathon Substation by dialing (305) 289-2430.

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