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Men convicted of having stolen crab pots from several counties

By Staff
Craven County crabbers face fines, probation
By NIKIE MAYO
News Editor
A few “nosy crabbers” are responsible for catching three men convicted of having stolen crab pots from 20 commercial fishermen in eastern North Carolina, including some in Beaufort and Hyde counties.
Albert Lynn Campen, 51, of Havelock, Christopher Tracy Barnes, 24, of New Bern and Thomas James Baker, 22, of Havelock were each found guilty May 29 in Washington County District Court of misdemeanor possession of stolen property, according to a statement this week from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
The discovery was made at Mackeys Marina in Washington County, but none of the crab pots was traced to Washington County fishermen, according to Marine Patrol Officer Brian Long. Long did trace 66 pots and/or buoys to owners in seven counties, he said. That’s around $2,000 worth of goods, based on current market values, he said.
Belhaven fisherman Carl Blackburn had at least 20 pots taken from him that were part of the lot, according to Long. Blackburn could not be reached for comment. Five other Beaufort County crabbers were also victimized, Long said.
Chris Clark from Hyde County had at least three crab pots stolen that were found in the stack, Long said. That was the typical haul from each crabber, Long said.
The charges the men were convicted of stemmed from a Nov. 13 discovery of stolen crab pots, according to the Marine Fisheries release. During November 2006, the three Craven County men were renting a trailer in Plymouth and were working out of the Albemarle Sound, Johnny Barnes said. Stolen crab pots were also stashed behind that trailer, both patrol officers said.
After Marine Fisheries sent employees to investigate the initial complaint, an officer saw the men hauling the stolen crab pots and stopped their vehicle on the side of the road in Washington County. During the search, they found drug paraphernalia on Christopher Barnes, for which he was also convicted.
Campen, who was convicted of having undersized crabs, was sentenced to two years of supervised probation. He must do 100 hours of community service and pay nearly $1,700 in fines and restitution. He can’t participate in commercial fishing for a year.
Christopher Barnes was sentenced to 12 months supervised probation and 50 hours of community service. He must pay $825 in fines.
Baker was sentenced to 12 months supervised probation and 50 hours of community service. He must pay $820 in fines.
Officer Johnny Barnes said he has “an inclination” the haul could have been much larger, but no other crab pots the men had were traced to other commercial fishermen.