Marine Life Dealers Charged for Illegal Harvest and Sale of Nurse Sharks
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division, and David G. Pharo, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), Office of Law Enforcement, announced the unsealing of criminal charges against Allan Wagner, formerly a resident of Monroe County, Florida, and Dean Trinh, 43, of Milpitas, California. More specifically, the indictment against Wagner and Trinh alleges that they engaged in a conspiracy to take, harvest, capture, transport, and sell quantities of juvenile nurse sharks from Florida state waters, for commercial sale and distribution in interstate commerce to their financial gain, in violation of the laws and regulations of the State of Florida, all in violation of the federal Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2)(A), and 3373(d)(1) and (2). Dean Trinh has been arrested and made his initial appearance on the charges in California; his court appearance date in Florida remains to be set. Allan Wagner passed away prior to the unsealing of the indictment.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez. If convicted on the charges, Trinh faces possible terms of imprisonment of up to five years on each of the six charges brought against him.
According to the indictment, Wagner held a Florida Saltwater Products License but lacked the necessary federal annual vessel permit for sharks. He was the registered owner of a 40’ commercial fishing vessel. Trinh operated a business in Milpitas, California, known as AQUATOP USA, LLC, which, among other things, advertised the sale of nurse sharks on eBay and Craig’s List. Specifically, the indictment alleges that Wagner harvested nurse shark pups from lobster traps he placed in state waters and thereafter he and Trinh negotiated over the internet for the sale and transfer of the juvenile nurse sharks. The sharks were shipped to California by commercial air cargo, for further sale by Trinh. Over the period from August 2009 through October 2009, the defendants are alleged to have sold and transferred approximately 74 sharks.
Florida Administrative Code, Section 68B-44.005, “Commercial Harvest of Sharks: Federal Permit Required” provides in relevant part: “(1) No person shall harvest sharks in or from the waters of the state for commercial purposes or sell any shark harvested from such waters unless such person is in possession of a valid federal annual vessel permit for sharks issued pursuant to 50 C.F.R. §635.4. The federal Lacey Act, among other things, makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce, any fish or wildlife, taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State. 16 U.S.C. §3372(a)(2)(A).
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Special Agents of NOAA-OLE and FWS-OLE in this case, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California for their assistance in the preliminary proceedings in that District. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.
An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.