Case Law Database

Money laundering

Offences

• Conversion/transfer of proceeds of crime

Participation in an organized criminal group

Offences

• Agreement to commit a serious crime (conspiracy)

Crimes that affect the environment

Species Involved

• Lobsters

United States v McNab, Blandford, Schoenwetter and Huang

Fact Summary

McNab owned and operated a fleet of lobster fishing boats that harvested Caribbean spiny lobster in Honduran fishing waters. In violation of conservation regulations imposed by the Republic of Hondurus, McNab's fleet harvested lobsters, including egg-bearing lobsters and lobsters with tails less than 5 1/2 inches in length, packed frozen lobsters in bulk plastic bags and loaded them onto McNab's transport vessel the Caribbean Clipper.

Some of the lobster tails were handled in compliance with Honduran reporting, inspection and processing requirements but others were transported aboard the Caribbean Clipper in unprocessed bulk bags to Bayou la Batre, Alabama, for delivery to Seamerica Corporation, the company of Robert Blandford.

Once the lobster tails were in the United States, Blandford and a colleague, Abner Schoenwetter, resold the shipments to the American Export Import Corporation, through petitioner Diane Huang, and to other US companies.

Following an anonymous tip-off, in February 1999, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) began looking into the matter and in March 1999 seized a lobster shipment described in the tip-off based on verifications by Honduran officials that the lobster shipment was illegal under Honduran law.

In mid 1999, Honduran officials met with NMFS agents and confirmed the lobsters had been exported illegally. Similar confirmation was undertaken by NMFS agents themselves in September 1999.

Based on the NMFS's investigation and the verification of the applicable foreign laws by the Honduran officials charges with regulating the lobster fishing industry, the US decided to prosecute petitioners for their roles in the illegal importing scheme.  

Commentary and Significant Features

The case demonstrates the importance of successful cross-jurisidiction communication and cooperation in combating wildlife trafficking. It raises issues of application and enforcement of foreign laws in United States.

Cross-Cutting Issues

Liability

... for

• completed offence

... based on

• criminal intention

... as involves

• principal offender(s)

Offending

Details

• occurred across one (or more) international borders (transnationally)

Involved Countries

United States of America

Honduras

Investigation Procedure

Confiscation and Seizure

Comments

Shipments at issue in this case involved approximately 400,000 pounds of spiny lobsters, with a value of approximately $4.6 million.

 

Gender considerations

Details

• Gender considerations

Procedural Information

Legal System:
Common Law
Latest Court Ruling:
Appellate Court
Type of Proceeding:
Other
 
 
Proceeding #1:
  • Stage:
    first trial
  • Court

    Court Title

    United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama

     
    • Criminal

    Description

    Following a jury trial in the US District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, the four petitioners were convicted of conspirary, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371 and other federal offences arising from violation of the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 (Lacey Act), 16 U.S.C. 3371.

     

    Outcome

  • Verdict:
    Guilty
  • Proceeding #2:
  • Stage:
    appeal
  • Official Case Reference:
    McNab v USA, Blandford, Schoenwetter and Huang v USA 331 F.3d 1228
  • Court

    Court Title

    United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

     

    Description

    Court of appeals affirmed the convictions. Most significantly:

    1. The court held that the Lacey Act’s prohibition against importing, exporting, transporting,selling, receiving, acquiring, or purchasing in interstate or foreign commerce fish or wildlife taken, possessed, transported, or sold “in violation of any foreign law” includes foreign regulations and other legally binding requirements that have the force of law, and not just foreign statutes.

    2. The court rejected petitioners’ contentions that three of the five Honduran laws underlying their convictions were invalid during the period covered by the indictment.

     

    Outcome

    Other Outcome

    Upheld

     

    Defendants / Respondents in the first instance

    Defendant:
    David Henson McNab
    Gender:
    Male
    Defendant:
    Robert D. Blandford
    Gender:
    Male
    Defendant:
    Abner Schoenwetter
    Gender:
    Male
    Defendant:
    Diane Huang
    Gender:
    Female

    Charges / Claims / Decisions

    Defendant:
    David Henson McNab
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C 371

    Charge details:

    Conspiracy

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C. 545

    Charge details:

    Knowingly importing merchandise into the US contrary to 18 U.S.C 545

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    16 U.S.C. 3371 (Lacey Act)

    Charge details:

    Dealing in fish and wildlife he knew were unlawfully taken, possessed, transported or sold pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 3372(a)(2)(A), 3373(d)(1)(B) and dealing in fish and wildlife that he should have known were unlawfully taken, possessed transported or sold, 16 U.S.C 3372(a)(2)(A), 3373(d)(2).

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C 1957

    Charge details:

    Engaging in monetary transactions involving criminally derived property

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C 1957, 1956(h)

    Charge details:

    Conspiring to engage in monetary transactions involving criminally derived property

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Term of Imprisonment:
    8 years 1 Month
    Defendant:
    Robert D. Blandford
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C. 371

    Charge details:

    Conspiracy

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    8 U.S.C. 545

    Charge details:

    Knowingly importing merchandise into the US contrary to 18 U.S.C 545

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C 1957

    Charge details:

    Engaging in monetary transactions involving criminally derived property

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C 1957, 1956(h)

    Charge details:

    Conspiring to engage in monetary transactions involving criminally derived property

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Term of Imprisonment:
    8 years 1 Month
    Defendant:
    Abner Schoenwetter
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C. 371

    Charge details:

    Conspiracy

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    8 U.S.C. 545

    Charge details:

    Knowingly importing merchandise into the US contrary to 18 U.S.C 545

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Term of Imprisonment:
    8 years 1 Month
    Defendant:
    Diane Huang
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    18 U.S.C. 371

    Charge details:

    Conspiracy

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Legislation / Statute / Code:

    16 U.S.C. 3372(a)(2)(A), 3373(d)(2); 16 U.S.C. 3372(d), 3373(d)(3)(A)(i)

    Charge details:

    Violating the Lacey Act by: (1) dealing in fish and wildlife that she should have known were unlawfully taken, possessed, transported, or sold, 16 U.S.C. 3372(a)(2)(A), 3373(d)(2); and (2) falsely labeling fish or wildlife, 16 U.S.C. 3372(d), 3373(d)(3)(A)(i).

    Verdict:
    Guilty
    Term of Imprisonment:
    2 years