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United States v. Long Cove Seafood, Inc.

Citation: 8 ELR 20643
No. No. 78-1028, 582 F.2d 159/11 ERC 2001/(2d Cir., 07/05/1978)

Affirming the lower court's dismissal of criminal charges under the National Stolen Property Act (NSPA), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals holds that the Act does not apply to interstate transportation of clams harvested in violation of state law. Defendants were charged under the Lacey Act with illegal interstate commerce in harvesting and selling undersized claims in violation of New York's Environmental Conservation Law (ECL). Defendants were also charged under the NSPA, which makes it a felony knowingly to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce. In rejecting the theory that wildlife taken in violation of state conservation laws is "stolen" within the meaning of the Act, the court holds that there must be an interference with a property interest in order for an item to be "stolen" under the NSPA. Whereas property rights in wildlife are obtained only by taking possession, clams are deemed in possession of the owner of the submerged land on which they are found. Because of the difficulties of litigating uncertainties of title to the land from which the claims came, the government argues that it need prove only that the claims were taken in violation of the ECL to establish that claims were "stolen" pursuant to the NSPA. The court rejects this argument, however, noting that all illegal takings are not necessarily larceny. The court finds further that New York has not asserted a sufficient ownership over claims in its waters because a person taking wildlife in violation of the ECL would not be guilty of larceny and because New York is not liable for damages caused by wildlife within its borders. The court thus rejects the government's appeal but does not disturb the Lacey Act charges.

Counsel for Appellant
Harvey M. Stone, Ass't U.S. Attorney; David G. Trager, U.S. Attorney; Douglas J. Kramer, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza E., Brooklyn NY 11201
(212) 330-7106

Counsel for Appellees
Richard C. Cahn
Cahn & Cahn
196 E. Main St., Huntington NY 11742
(516) 427-3050

For himself, Friendly and Gurfein, JJ.