Two recreational crabbers caught by Maryland Natural Resources Police officers stealing from the crab pots of commercial watermen were sentenced Friday to 30 days in jail by an Anne Arundel District Court judge.
John Allen Schuman, 37, of Pasadena, was found guilty of six charges stemming from his arrest last Sept. 15 off Bodkin Point at the mouth of the Patapsco River.
Leslie Eugene Jenne III, 31, of Pasadena, was found guilty of two charges of illegal crabbing for his role in the same incident. Jenne was still on probation after being convicted in July 2014 of second-degree assault.
In addition to jail time and paying court costs, both men were placed on one year’s probation.
Col. George F. Johnson IV, superintendent of NRP, praised the watermen and area residents who provided tips to officers and filed reports that led to the conviction of both men.
“These two men were stealing from hard-working watermen and depriving them of their livelihoods,” Johnson said. “This is a classic example how, working together, we can bring law-breakers to justice.”
Watermen estimated their losses over the two-month period last summer at $6,400.
Officers said they began receiving complaints from watermen last July that their crab pots were being opened, damaged and emptied, in some cases at least twice a week. They conducted surveillance of the shoreline waters between Bodkin Point and Gibson Island but were initially unable to track down the thieves.
They got their break when area residents noticed an unlighted boat returning to Bodkin Creek late at night several times a week. One tip included a boat registration number that was assigned to Schuman.
Officers intercepted Schuman’s unlighted 22-foot boat on the night of Sept. 15 and noticed a thick coating of mud and algae smeared on the vessel’s hull and deck.
Schuman told officers that he and his three passengers had been out recreational crabbing that evening. On their way back home, the boat engine had become entangled in crab pot line. To free his boat, Schuman said he pulled up a crab pot. He decided to keep the five crabs inside.
But officers said the amount of mud and algae was inconsistent with what would be found on a recreational boat and more in line with what would be found on a commercial vessel pulling many heavy traps. The crabs were seized and returned to state waters.
The next day, five watermen reported to NRP that a total of 43 pots had been fished.
Officers reviewed Schuman’s Facebook page—which was public–and found several photos of him crabbing at night, with time stamps indicating the activity occurred between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.
Schuman was charged with removing crabs from a pot of another, theft, recreational crabbing after hours, failing to have a recreational license, failing to have a registration in his possession, recreational possession of a female crab and operating without proper running lights.
Jenne was charged with theft and recreational crabbing after hours.