Captain of Fishing Vessel Pleads Guilty for Discharging Waste into the Ocean

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A captain of the fishing vessel (F/V) Native Sun pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Seattle, Washington, for discharging oily-waste directly into the ocean in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and the federal conspiracy statute.

Randall Fox pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Lasnik of the Western District of Washington to two criminal felony counts for violating APPS’ prohibition against discharging oily-wastes, namely machinery-space bilge water, directly into the ocean. According to court documents, Randall Fox, and other co-conspirators, repeatedly discharged the oil-contaminated bilge water into the ocean using unapproved submersible pumps and hoses. On at least one occasion, such a discharge left a sizable oily-sheen along the surface of the water that trailed alongside the F/V Native Sun.

The Justice Department aggressively prosecutes those who pollute the waters of the United States, including the oceans,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeff Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “Law-abiding vessel operators know the importance of compliance with our nation’s environmental laws.”

“This case highlights the great collaborative efforts of Sector Puget Sound, Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Department of Justice in holding those who pollute our waters accountable,” said Captain Linda A. Sturgis, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound. “The results announced today are a prime example of the importance of the Coast Guard’s marine environmental protection mission and the effectiveness of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.”

Randall Fox faces a maximum of six years in prison for the APPS count and five years in prison for the conspiracy count. He also faces a criminal fine of up to $250,000 for each count. Sentencing is scheduled for June 16, 2017. Today’s plea is related to the indictment of the vessel owner, Bingham Fox. According to the charges, the conspirators directed the installation of the aforementioned illegal pumps and hoses, directed co-conspirators to empty the bilges regularly, and instructed the co-conspirators to conceal any evidence of the discharges by dispersing the sheen with detergents. Bingham Fox pled “not guilty” to the conspiracy and CWA charges in April 2016 and has maintained his innocence since that time. Trial for Bingham Fox is currently set to begin March 21, 2017. An indictment contains allegations and all defendants are innocent until proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys Todd W. Gleason and Stephen Da Ponte of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section.

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