Luke Brugnara in front of a painting titled "Christ Carrying the
music in the park san jose

A San Francisco real estate developer accused of poaching in
western Gilroy was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Wednesday
for

taking

threatened steelhead trout and making false statements during a
federal investigation.
A San Francisco real estate developer accused of poaching in western Gilroy was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Wednesday for “taking” threatened steelhead trout and making false statements during a federal investigation.

Judge Maxine Chesney’s sentence on Wednesday came after Luke Brugnara had been sentenced Monday to 30 months in prison for tax fraud. He will serve three years and nine months of total prison time.

Brugnara pled guilty to poaching on Jan. 26, admitting that he intentionally blocked the flow of Little Arthur Creek, a critical habitat for steelhead, through his private dam on Redwood Retreat Road.

“The protection of steelhead and other threatened species is of paramount importance,” U.S. Attorney Russoniello said. “My office will continue to prosecute violators of the Endangered Species Act to the fullest extent of the law.”

Little Arthur Creek is an important watershed for steelhead, according to the state Department of Fish and Game and the federal National Marine Fisheries Service. Regulators say that the habitat above the dam is critical to the breeding and survival of the South-Central California Coast steelhead, which are found in Little Arthur Creek and are listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species list. This is the first federal criminal case charging an individual with taking steelhead through blocking access to upstream habitat.

“Safeguarding ESA-listed fish and wildlife populations is one of this Department’s top priorities,” said Nancy Foley, Chief of Enforcement at the California Department of Fish and Game. “The collaboration and dedication exhibited in this multi-agency investigation should be a clear message to everyone that our agencies are serious about enforcing laws designed to protect and restore the public’s natural resources.”

State and federal investigators said they found many trapped adult steelhead downstream of the dam that could not migrate upstream to a suitable spawning habitat. A rescue team – consisting of NOAA and Fish and Game representatives along with members of the local Coastal Habitation Education and Environmental Restoration group – noticed March 24, 2007, that fish that had been in the pool below the dam were gone.

Brugnara initially denied fishing for steelhead on his property after the rescue team said they found a pair of boots, footprints, a fishing line with hooks attached and two McDonald’s receipts with recent dates. However, he ultimately admitted that he been there and bought food in Morgan Hill along the way, according to a federal indictment. He also admitted that he and a friend had been fishing there, although he said they did not catch anything and used a fishing lure that would have prevented them from catching steelhead. The attorney general’s office said Brugnara lied about his intentions to catch fish and about the type of lure he used.

Brugnara also pleaded guilty Jan. 26 to filing false tax returns in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and to obstructing the Internal Revenue Service.

On Monday, Brugnara was sentenced to pay a $50,000 fine and $1.9 million in restitution along with his prison sentence for tax fraud.

Brugnara initially was slated to appear in court Wednesday in hopes of overturning his guilty plea for poaching and obstruction, which he also submitted Jan. 26.

The maximum penalty for each false statement charge regarding the poaching was five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for each Endangered Species Act violation was six months in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Previous articleCommunity Pulse: What school facilities have priority?
Next articleTwo-car crash only leads to minor injuries

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here