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September 4, 2013

Illegal lobster landings spur charges

ROCKPORT — As the summer season is winding down, two West Roxbury men are facing up to multiple charges for attempting to illegally take home some 30 Rockport summer staples — lobsters.

Igor Moochnick, 39, is facing 12 counts of illegally possessing small lobsters, while Pioter Epshtein, 42, is facing 18 counts of the same charge, with each illegal lobster amounting to a single charge.

Rockport Police said Tuesday the men are also facing charges because their diving equipment was not properly marked, and they more than 100 feet from their diving marker.

The incident started Monday — Labor Day — when divers on Old Garden Beach alerted a lifeguard of suspicious activity. The lifeguard then alerted police, as well as the shellfish constables and Harbormasters Scott Story and Rosemary Lesch.

The local divers — with the North Shore Frogmen, a diving club that has been active in the area since 1958 — said they noticed something fishy while preparing for a dive at about 10:45 a.m.

Vinny Egizi, one of four divers out that day and the Frogmen’s organizational treasurer, said he noticed that the two men were handling a lot of lobsters.

“If I get two or three lobsters a day, I’m pretty pleased,” he said.

Scuba divers can obtain lobster permits, but only lobsters of a certain size can be taken out of the water and kept.

Egizi said he could not dive that day because something was wrong with a piece of his equipment. But when he asked one of the West Roxbury men to borrow some gear, the men said their equipment was rented. That, Egizi said Tuesday, was another red flag.

“People that rent gear typically don’t dive often and wouldn’t get a lobster license in the first place,” he said.

Harbormaster Story said he and Lesch monitored Moochnick and Epshtein for about 45 minutes, when they saw the men come up holding lobsters.

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