West Springfield father and son plead guilty to illegal fish business, violating state and federal wildlife laws
SPRINGFIELD — A West Springfield father and son were convicted Monday in U.S. District Court of violating state and federal fish and wildlife laws by illegally dealing in millions of dollars of live freshwater fish.
Paul Zombik, 48, and his father, Michael Zombik, 69, pleaded guilty before federal Judge Michael A. Ponsor to importing live bait fish into Massachusetts without required permits and then selling the fish in violation of the federal Lacey Act.
Each man faces up to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for March 13, 2013.
According to U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz, the Zombiks ran Michael’s Wholesale Bait in West Springfield and, between October 2005 and February 2009, bought and sold millions of dollars worth of live freshwater bait and game fish, almost all of which was done without state permits.
In addition, the father and son imported protected Eastern silvery minnows into Massachusetts from Vermont in violation of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, according to federal prosecutors.
“The Zombiks’ failure to follow state regulations and the required permit process increased the likelihood that diseases and invasive organisms would be introduced into Massachusetts’ waters and the ecosystems of other states,” Ortiz’s office said in a statement Monday.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the Northeast Region, the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and Massachusetts Environmental Police assisted federal prosecutors in the case.