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Dive boat captain charged with Lionfish catch fraud
LatitudeAdjustment - 11/02/2019 9:34 AM
Category: General
Replies: 3

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also charged the dive boat owner’s girlfriend with helping him doctor photos

TEQUESTA — The owner of a scuba diving business collected more than $10,000 in state bounties for taking customers out to kill invasive lionfish, but he faked invoices, doctored photos, and on at least 40 of 58 dates he supposedly was at sea, his boat sat in a warehouse, authorities allege.

John Clay Dickinson, 61, of Lake Park, and Rachel Janea McGinnis, 42, identified as Dickinson’s live-in girlfriend, were booked Wednesday morning at the Palm Beach County Jail. Each was charged with an organized scheme to defraud, uttering a forgery, forgery and grand theft.

Both left jail the same afternoon after posting $12,000 bond, records show.

Calls to phones listed for the two in an affidavit, and to the office of Dickinson’s Florida Scuba Divers, were not returned.

According to a report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Dickinson used fake names and doctored photos to inflate — or in some cases create from nothing — large catches of the invasive species in order to collect on the agency’s harvesting program.

The program pays dive operators $50 when a client catches at least eight lionfish during a trip.

The fish, which are native to the Pacific-Indian ocean region, first appeared in Florida in the 1990s, procreate at staggering rates, and their venomous spines protect them from predators. They’ve eaten some native fish populations nearly to extinction.

The report said Dickinson, who operated the dive operation aboard his boat Shark Tales, based at the Jupiter Pointe Marina in Tequesta, insisted he never invoiced for a trip in which no lionfish were caught.

FWC alleged McGinnis helped Dickinson alter photos. It said she refused to speak to investigators.

The FWC report said Dickinson submitted 51 invoices from March 2018 to January 2019 and was paid $10,696.

But in September 2018, the report said, an FWC specialist who reviewed invoices said photos showed “pretty obvious Photoshopping.” It said a second specialist concurred.

The agency said the sloppiness of some of the doctoring caught their attention.

In some photos, people purported to have taken trips on separate dates wore the same clothes and stood in the same position. One person’s shirt was transparent and legs were missing. Other photos showed lionfish that were “floating” about decks, that were missing parts, that appeared discolored, that lay atop shadows and that appeared transparent. Other photos were blurred or parts of the boat changed color from photo to photo.
Eric_R - 11/02/2019 1:24 PM
I hope they take their boat. Do you think the state should really be paying people to take lion fish? I doubt it does much good unless they remove them from the same reef all the time. I bet operators are going to where they know they can find them quickly.
LatitudeAdjustment - 11/02/2019 1:30 PM
From Eric_R: I bet operators are going to where they know they can find them quickly.

Some trips are advertised as Lionfish hunts.

BillParker - 11/17/2019 11:45 PM
My grandfather used some of his land for cattle grazing. Coyotes were a problem occasionally. When coyotes were numerous he paid bounties for fresh kills. Photos were not good enough. You had to bring a dead animal before you were paid the bounty. It kept them under control.