Michael D. Hayden, Jr., 41, of Tilghman Island, was arrested Tuesday on charges of witness tampering and retaliation in connection with an investigation the illegal harvesting of the fish from the Chesapeake Bay.
The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division; Regional Special Agent in Charge Honora Gordon of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement; and Joseph P. Gill, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
“Stealing striped bass and intimidating witnesses are crimes against our natural resources and against the citizens of Maryland,” said Gill. “We are grateful for the partnership of law enforcement agencies and we thank our residents for coming forward and providing information to help us protect the public trust.”
According to the criminal complaint, Hayden is a commercial fisherman, licensed in the state of Maryland, and operates commercial fishing vessels on the Chesapeake Bay. During an investigation into the illegal harvesting of striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay, agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, and the Maryland Natural Resources Police learned that Hayden allegedly attempted to manipulate some witnesses’ testimony while trying to prevent the testimony of others. The criminal complaint alleges that in at least one incident, Hayden threatened to retaliate against a potential witness he believed to be cooperating with investigators.
If convicted, Hayden faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of four counts of witness tampering and witness retaliation.
He is scheduled to have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. ET.