☷Major Seafood Dealer and Eight Individuals Indicted for International Wildlife Trafficking
U.S. Department of Justice ( By Press Release office)
| 66| 1
The Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division , Environmental Crimes Section , unsealed an indictment charging a major seafood distributor and eight of its employees and associates with smuggling , Lacey Act violations and conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act , stemming from their trafficking in large volumes of highly imperiled eels . The defendants facing these felony charges are:American Eel Depot Corporation of Totowa , New JerseyYi Rui Huang , aka Ricky , 47 , of Oakland Gardens , New YorkFen Liu , aka Emily , 45 , of Oakland Gardens , New YorkChao Jin Shi , aka Kevin , 49 , of Flushing , New YorkGuo Tuan Zhou , aka Jason , 45 , of Woodhaven , New YorkLiang Chen , aka Jackie , 33 , of Fujian , ChinaYundong Wei , 42 , of Fuzhou , ChinaXiajuan Huang Zhouyi , 46 , of Changle , ChinaHong Lee , aka John , 75 , of Yuen Long , Hong KongAmerican Eel Depot is the largest importer and wholesale distributor of eel meat in the United States . Eel poaching and smuggling is one of the world’s biggest wildlife trafficking problems , based on both the number of animals and the amount of money that changes hands in the black market . Following a crackdown on the poaching and smuggling of American eels , eel traffickers , including the defendants in this case , shifted their efforts to European eels , a species facing an even greater threat of extinction . It has been illegal since 2010 to export European eels out of any European Union country . European eels are also protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ( CITES ) wildlife protection treaty , which is enforced in the United States through the Endangered Species Act . Despite this ban , the indictment alleges , the defendants conspired to unlawfully smuggle large quantities of live baby European eels out of Europe , to their eel - rearing factory in China . After rearing the baby eels to maturity , defendants’ Chinese facility would then slaughter and process the eels for shipping to the United States , to be sold as sushi products . The indictment alleges that , over a four - year period , the defendants imported approximately 138 ocean containers full of eel meat into the United States , with a market value exceeding $160 million . The indictment focuses on six containers , seized by the government , which were determined to contain all or mostly European eel , mislabeled as American eel to avoid law enforcement detection . American eel fishing is highly regulated but still lawful in limited quantities in some areas . As alleged in the indictment , the defendants knew the eels’ true species , knew what they were doing was unlawful , and intentionally lied to U . S . authorities to conceal the illegalities and avoid detection . “This case demonstrates the effectiveness and importance of the Endangered Species Act in cracking down on the international trafficking of protected wildlife , ” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division . “We will not allow United States - based businesses and their executives and associates to cause – and profit off of – the systemic decline of the world’s protected aquatic species . ”“This investigation highlights the global trade pressures facing freshwater eels , and the Service ' s commitment to stand as a united front with our international partners in protecting both foreign and domestic species , ” said Assistant Director Edward Grace of the U . S Fish and Wildlife Service’s ( USFWS ) Office of Law Enforcement . “This indictment sends a clear message to individuals and corporations that if they unlawfully profit and decimate wildlife , domestically or abroad , investigators will work tirelessly to seek justice . ”This case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security , USFWS and Customs and Border Protection . Trial Attorneys Mathew D . Evans and Ethan Eddy of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section are prosecuting the case . If convicted , each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250 , 000 ( for individual defendants ) or $500 , 000 ( for business organizations ) , or twice the financial gain to the defendant or twice the financial loss to another , whichever is greater . A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U . S . Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors . An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law .
PLAY the NEWS
* May be useful for visually impaired persons .
Press release information:
Direct link to press release
: Click here .