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Press Release

Milpitas Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal SF Bay Shark Sale Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

SAN FRANCISCO - Dean Trinh pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco today to Conspiracy, Lacey Act violations, and Wire Fraud, for his involvement in the illegal capture and sale of California leopard sharks and nurse sharks, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced.

In pleading guilty, Mr. Trinh admitted to taking undersized California leopard sharks from the San Francisco Bay and selling them to customers in Canada and Florida, through his business, AquatopUSA LLC, High Tech Auctions and Trinh also admitted that he conspired to transport, sell, receive, acquire, and purchase illegally collected nurse shark pups over the internet, knowing that they were taken, possessed, transported, sold, and intended to be sold in violation of the laws and regulations of the State of Florida.

Trinh, 43, of Milpitas, California, was indicted by a federal Grand Jury on May 23, 2013, in the Northern District of California, with three counts of violating the Lacey Act, in violation of 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(2)(A) and § 3372(a)(4), and nine counts of Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. On November 1, 2012, in the Southern District of Florida, Trinh was charged with one count of Conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Under the plea agreement, Mr. Trinh pled guilty to all counts in both cases.

The sentencing of Mr. Trinh is scheduled for November 12, 2013, before The Honorable Richard Seeborg, United States District Court, Judge in San Francisco. The maximum statutory penalty for each count in violation of the Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(2)(A), 3372(a)(4), is 5 years imprisonment, 3 years supervised release, a fine of $250,000, plus restitution; for each count of Wire Fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1343, the maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment, three years supervised release, a $250,000 fine, plus restitution. The statutory maximum penalty for Conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 is 5 years imprisonment, 3 years supervised release, a $250,000 fine, plus restitution. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Maureen Bessette and Thomas Watts-FitzGerald (from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida) are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the case with the assistance of supervisory legal technician Kathleen Turner. The prosecution is the result of a three year investigation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.



Updated November 18, 2014