Tacoma - A Pierce County man, arrested and charged in March 2002 on suspicion of leading a sophisticated geoduck theft and crab poaching ring, could face nearly 20 years in prison as part of a plea agreement entered today.
Douglas John Martin Tobin, 50, of Fife, accepted the agreement in connection with a southern Puget Sound geoduck and crab theft operation in which nearly 200,000 pounds of geoduck and about 85,000 pounds of crab were illegally harvested and sold to markets throughout the Pacific Northwest and Asia.
The plea was entered before Pierce County Superior Court Judge Kitty-Ann van Doorninck. Under the agreement, Tobin pleaded guilty to first degree theft of geoduck, 33 violations of trafficking in fish and wildlife related to illegal Dungeness crab harvesting, one count of fishing in a closed area or during a closed season, one count of fish dealing without a license, selling shellfish without a health certificate, failure to fill out harvest records and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Sentencing for Tobin is expected to occur in June. Pierce County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tom Moore said he will argue for a sentence of 19 years and eight months for Tobin, who has been in the Pierce County Jail since his arrest in March 2002.
Moore said the stiff sentence is warranted because of the sophistication of the poaching operation, the number of people involved, the severity of the crime and Tobin's prior criminal record.
WDFW Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork said Tobin's theft operation caused significant harm to southern Puget Sound's geoduck and crab resources and posed a public health threat.
"This theft represents not only a tremendous loss of the public's natural resources, but also the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenues," Bjork said. "This wasn't just about clams and crabs - it was also about greed and money, and it clearly jeopardized the public's health."