Former deputy pleads guilty in lobster poaching ruse

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Posted by on December 03, 2009 at 00:23:18:

SANTA ANA A former Orange County deputy sheriff pleaded guilty today to lying to a fish and game warden by claiming an off-duty officer was a confidential informant to protect his friend from being cited for illegal lobster poaching.

Phillip Glenn Romero, 39, was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of obstructing an officer and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, placed on 18 months of probation, and ordered to pay $1,700 in restitution and fines, and donations to victim and witness services and the state Fish and Game Preservation Fund.

He was also ordered to write a letter of apology to California Department of Fish and Game.

Co-defendant William Robb, 39, the off-duty deputy, remains charged with misdemeanor counts of possessing an excessive number of spiny lobsters and possessing undersized spiny lobsters. He has a pretrial hearing scheduled on Dec. 17.

Prosecutors contend that Robb, who was not in uniform, pulled up to a launch ramp on a boat in Dana Point Harbor on Nov. 18, 2007, after illegally fishing for lobsters with two other deputies, who were also off-duty and not in uniform.

The law preserves and protects the lobster population by requiring that no more than seven lobsters may be caught per person and each lobster must measure 3.25 inches long or more, according to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney's Office,

Robb had a bucket containing 13 undersized, illegal lobsters when fish and game warden Justin Sandvig approached to inquire, according to Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Olivieri of the Special Prosecutions Unit.

Romero, who was then on-duty and in uniform, arrived in the parking lot and requested to speak with Sandvig alone, according to Olivieri. Romero then made up a story that Robb was a confidential informant who should not be identified in front of the other two men.

The warden, initially believing that was a legitimate request, backed off and allowed the men to leave after confirming there were no other illegal lobsters in the men's possession.

But several days later, Sandvig contacted Romero again, asking for Robb's identity for his report and to issue a citation, prosecutors said, but Romero stuck to his story and refused to provide the warden with Robb's identity.

Prosecutors reported that Sandvig figured out that Romero's story was a ruse, and requested an investigation.

Romero left the Sheriff's Department in May, according to sheriff's spokesman John MacDonald, Robb remains on active duty.

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