Fish Scammer Sentenced to Jail and Felony Probation

John Wilson, who pleaded no contest in August to several fishing-related crimes, was sentenced on Thursday to six months in Santa Barbara County Jail and three years of felony probation. Deputy District Attorney Kevin Weichbrod, who handled the case, said that Wilson was given some time to apply for electronic monitoring, but whether he is granted that in lieu of jail time is at the discretion of the Sheriff’s Office.

John Wilson
Click to enlarge photo

John Wilson

Earlier this year, California Fish and Wildlife found that Wilson nabbed crabs from other fishermen’s tanks — felony grand theft — in the Santa Barbara Harbor. The agency further found that Wilson sold the stolen catch at fish markets throughout the area. The District Attorney’s Office also charged him with five misdemeanors related to fishing out of season, failing to manage traps, and neglecting to account for his commercial yield. As part of his sentencing, Wilson was ordered to pay roughly $3,000 in restitution to the affected fishermen and told to abstain from all fishing until Fish and Wildlife completes all investigative matters related to the case, Weichbrod said.

Wilson, who said he has fished in the area for 34 years, stopped by The Independent office after his sentencing to apologize for his actions, but said such activity is common among fishermen. Noting that he used to be a prominent fixture at the Hollywood Fish Market and previously worked the Governor’s Ball for the Oscars, Wilson said his boat and Santa Ynez Valley home were egged after his arrest. “I was the biggest fish in the harbor,” he said. “I’m very sorry for what happened down there. My reputation has been ruined.”

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