Case of the Lying, Lobster-Poaching Sheriff's Deputies Crawls to a Close
Orange County Sheriff's Deputy William Robb III pleaded guilty to illegally possessing too many lobsters, ending a bizarre case that featured another deputy lying that Robb was a confidential informant to stave off a California Department of Fish and Game citation for illegal poaching.
Follow the bouncing crustacean on the Orange County District Attorney's office statement that follows after the jump . . .
January 28, 2010
ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPUTY CONVICTED OF POSESSING TOO MANY ILLEGAL LOBSTERS
*Co-defendant on-duty deputy was convicted earlier of obstructing an officer to protect this defendant
SANTA ANA - An Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) deputy pleaded guilty today to illegally possessing too many lobsters, ending a case that resulted in another deputy's conviction for obstructing an officer. William Robb III, 39, the off-duty deputy, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count each of possessing an excessive number of spiny lobsters and possessing undersized spiny lobsters. Robb was placed on one year of informal probation and was ordered to pay $800 plus penalties and assessments and a $500 donation to the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) among other terms and conditions.
Co-defendant then-Deputy Phillip Glenn Romero, 39, pleaded guilty Dec. 2, 2009, to one misdemeanor count of obstructing an officer for falsely claiming that his friend Robb, who was off-duty at the time of the incident, was a confidential informant to protect him from being cited by the CDFG for illegal lobster poaching. He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, 18 months of probation, was ordered to pay $1,700 in restitution, fines, and donations to victim and witness services and the CDFG Preservation Fund. He was also ordered to write a letter of apology to CDFG.
On Nov. 18, 2008, Robb, who was off-duty and not in uniform, pulled up to a launch ramp on a fishing vessel in Dana Point Harbor 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 three and a quarter inches or more in length.
Robb had in his possession a bucket containing 13 undersized, illegal lobsters. As CDFG Warden Justin Sandvig spoke with Robb, on-duty OCSD Deputy Romero arrived in uniform in the parking lot and requested to speak with the Warden alone. After learning that Sandvig had not yet identified Robb, Romero made up a story that Robb was a confidential informant for OCSD and Romero did not want him identified in front of the other two men. Believing this was a legitimate request by a law enforcement officer, Sandvig allowed Romero to handle the situation with Robb.
After confirming that the other two deputies on the vessel were not in possession of any illegal lobsters, Sandvig allowed them to leave. In the following days, Sandvig was in contact with Romero and attempted to obtain Robb's name for his report and in order to issue a citation. Romero continued to claim Robb was a confidential informant and refused to provide his name.
On Dec. 8, 2008, after learning the identity of Robb and the circumstances surrounding Romero's attempt to unlawfully interfere in the investigation, Sandvig submitted a report to the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) requesting investigation and criminal charges against the defendants in this case. The OCDA investigated this case.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Olivieri of the Special Prosecutions Unit prosecuted this case.