Man Who Traded Fish for Crack Must Clean Up

By McCarton Ackerman 07/20/12

It's mandatory rehab for an addict who persuaded his dealer to accept stolen seafood as payment.

Drug money? Photo via

It doesn't sound like a fair trade to us: a San Francisco man has received a three-year suspended prison sentence on the condition he enter drug treatment—after swapping $10,000 worth of fish for just $400 worth of crack cocaine. Byron Bates, 44, was working as a truck driver for a seafood distribution company in October 2011 when he was asked to make a round of deliveries in Sacramento. That afternoon, customers began calling to complain that no deliveries had been made, and the company was unable to reach Bates by phone. The truck was found abandoned in Oakland four days later, containing a few remaining, rotting pieces of fish, and Bates was ultimately arrested in South San Francisco. He'd performed the notable feat of persuading a drug dealer to accept payment in fish. The San Mateo Superior Court judge said she chose not to send him to prison because his crime was non-violent, he showed remorse and his "theft-related conduct was driven by addiction." Bates—who wept as he told the court, "I just feel a lot of guilt right now"—has been accepted into the Delancey Street Foundation's addiction recovery program in San Francisco, and vows to turn his life around.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.