Friday, July 19, 2024

Mendocino County Coast Man Sentenced to Two Years in State Prison for Abalone Poaching

The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office:

Lery Nicholas Robles Jr. [Mugshot from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Booking Logs]

A defendant convicted of being involved in a criminal conspiracy to poach abalone was sentenced Monday morning in the Ten Mile Division of the Mendocino County Superior Court to 24 months in state prison.

Defendant Leroy Nicholas Robles, Jr., age 58, generally of Fort Bragg and Santa Barbara, had appeared before the court convicted by felony plea to being involved last April in a criminal conspiracy to harvest and sell abalone on the black market.

He also stood convicted of a separate and distinct abalone violation of the Fish and Game Code, as well as possession of fentanyl, both as misdemeanors occurring in March.
During March 2023 the defendant was caught with thirty-one abalone and over fifteen grams of fentanyl.

While released from custody on that March arrest, the defendant was again arrested in April, this time with his brother, with fifteen more abalone.

Both admitted harvesting abalone to sell on the black market for up to $40 apiece. Defendant Robles admitted he has been poaching and selling abalone as his primary source of income since 2020.

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The defendant has an overall criminal record now of six felony convictions, along with eleven misdemeanor convictions.

The law enforcement agencies that developed the evidence underlying the defendant’s most recent convictions were the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and the Department of Justice crime laboratory.

The coastal prosecutor who charged and handled this case through conviction and sentencing was Senior Deputy District Attorney Eloise Kelsey.

As a historical aside, using a conspiracy legal theory to establish criminal culpability and to elevate poaching misconduct to the felony-level in factually-appropriate cases originated here in Mendocino County.

Over thirty years ago, a defendant from Lincoln, California, Darrell Tatman, had his fishing boat forfeited in 1989 as he was being sent to state prison for three years for his involvement in a felony conspiracy to violate Fish and Game misdemeanors.

Pretending to be harvesting urchins as a cover, Tatman and a Santa Barbara hookah diver instead had poached 196 abalone.

Those with a long-ish memory may remember that during the Tatman trial in Ukiah the prosecutor had the defendant’s “urchin” boat trailered to town from the coast for a “jury view.”

The large fishing boat was parked across the street from the courthouse so that the members of the jury could climb aboard and view first-hand the many hidden compartments where the shucked abalone meats had been bagged and hidden, and then uncovered by the DFW wardens during a harbor inspection.

Defendant Tatman’s case was the first time in California criminal justice history that a criminal defendant was convicted of a felony conspiracy to violate Fish and Game misdemeanors. It was also the first time a wildlife poacher was sentenced to state prison.

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The young prosecutor who pioneered the use of conspiracy jurisprudence in the 80’s to deter poachers and safeguard the public’s natural resources was David Eyster, Mendocino County’s current District Attorney.

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  1. So this is what are tax dollars is being spent on. A felony conviction for poaching abalone? When there are people out there selling drugs to our kids and o er dosing them? Oh that’s right sell drugs to dum people down so they won’t see what’s really going on in the justice system. When will people wake up and see the backwardness of the justice system.
    Call fish and game complain about a nuisance bear and they won’t do a thing. Go poach abalone and they will be up your ass.

    • Obviously you have never dived for abalone. If you had you’d realize the population of legal sized ab’s have dwindled substantially over the decades due to over picking and poaching. Bears are bears and you are the nuisance in their home…Lol

      • Nope but I do know people who have. And I understand the situation but why spend tax dollars to convict someone of a felony for poaching when someone who beat their spouse just got probation. Does that make sense?
        Then what is fish and game for? Why do we pay taxes to keep funding them if we are nuisance to the animal population?? See what I mean??

        • My thought exactly. It’s disgusting how the justice system let’s a wo.an beater go but yet 24 months for abalone. This country truly disgusts me anymore.

  2. Just try to find enough regulation size abs to get your limit! Poachers need to go to jail!! I remember when bus loads of divers would come up and empty a good spot …

  3. Without enforcement, laws are meaningless. We have to enforce them all. Exploiting this natural resource for personal gain absolutely deserves to be punished. There must be a deterrent to would be poachers. It’s not an argument of which is more important. Using tax dollars to enforce crime against persons, and also to preserve our states precious resources (wildlife), are both worthy causes. One has nothing to do with the other.


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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
Editor's Note: Whenever an article's byline reads "MendoFever Staff", the contents of that article were not composed by any of our reporters. Types of writing that will be attributed to "MendoFever Staff" include press releases, letters to the editor, op-eds, obituaries— essentially writing that is not produced by a reporter.

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