The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced that game wardens uncovered a massive illegal seafood network that funneled some 28,000 pounds of unlawfully caught finfish -- including highly regulated red snapper and other protected game fish species such as tuna, amberjack, grouper and red drum -- sold at a profit of more than $400,000, thought to be the largest in Texas history.
Houston restaurateur Bruce Molzan, 59, is accused of purchasing and then selling the illegally-caught fish in two restaurants he was formerly associated with, Ruggles Black and Ruggles Green. Another restaurant led by Molzan is alleged to have sold illegal shrimp.
In April 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard came across an unlicensed commercial fishing boat near Freeport with 488 red snapper, a total haul of 1,900 pounds. The Texas Game Wardens then began to delve deeper into the investigation.
More than 200 Class C misdemeanor citations have been issued as a result of the extensive, two-year investigation, which involved Texas Game Wardens, the National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration special agents and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Two anglers in Freeport have also been charged with felonies by NOAA in connection with the case.
Ruggles Green offered this statement:
Today, Texas Parks & Wildlife announced findings from an investigation of an illegal seafood network allegedly involving former Ruggles Green co-owner, Bruce Molzan. As of October 1, 2016, Ruggles Green is under new ownership and since that time Mr. Molzan has not been an owner, or involved in the management or operations of the company.
Under its new ownership, Ruggles Green has not served any illegal seafood, has not received any citations in connection with this investigation and ensures lawful and sustainable practices. We stand behind our processes to provide guests with the highest quality of food.
This highlights just how broad the scope of work that the Texas Game Wardens handle. Often overlooked, sea life is an important part of a coastal state's natural resources.
The Texas Game Wardens stated, "That is not something we in law enforcement will tolerate and we are confident these individuals will be prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows."