HOUSTON (AP/KXAN) — State authorities say a prominent chef and restaurateur was involved in a scheme to illegally catch nearly 28,000 pounds of fish that was sold in Houston restaurants.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says 59-year-old Bruce Molzan purchased and then sold red snapper, grouper and other fish at two restaurants — Ruggles Black and Ruggles Green. KPRC reports Molzan is no longer affiliated with Ruggles Green as of October 2016.
The agency said Wednesday the operation netted more than $400,000 in profit. Authorities contend the network had been operating for at least four years and the illegal catch is one of the largest in state history.
They say about a dozen unlicensed commercial fishermen were involved and that more than 200 misdemeanor citations have been issued. The fishermen involved mainly caught highly-regulated red snapper, along with other protected game fish species, including tuna, amberjack, grouper and red drum. In one bust related to the scheme, the U.S. Coast Guard stopped an unlicensed commercial fishing boat near Freeport with 488 red snapper that were illegally caught.
Authorities say Molzan also illegally bought shrimp for another restaurant, which violated commercial fish wholesale regulations.
An attorney for Molzan told the Houston Chronicle that he’s challenging the charges and expects them to be dismissed.
In a post on its Facebook page, the popular restaurant Ruggles Green said they are “disheartened by the alleged actions of previous ownership.”