Milpitas Man Sentenced To Five Months Custody, Ordered To Pay A $10,000 Fine, And Restitution For Illegal Shark Sales
SAN FRANCISCO – Dean Tuan Trinh was sentenced yesterday to 5 months home detention, and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Fund, along with $14,400 in restitution for his involvement in the illegal take and sale of California leopard sharks from the San Francisco Bay and nurse sharks from Florida State waters, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced.
Trinh, 44, of Milpitas, Calif., pleaded guilty on August 8, 2013, to violations of Wire Fraud, the Lacey Act, and Conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. According to the plea agreement, Trinh admitted that he ran a wholesale fish business known as Aquatop USA in Milpitas, from 2009 through 2012. Trinh stated that he knew there was a lucrative market for undersized (less than 36”) California leopard sharks and used his fishing vessel, the “Shark Hunter,” to fish for the sharks in the San Francisco Bay. Trinh offered the sharks for sale on his website and sold them to customers throughout the United States and abroad. To facilitate the sale of these illegal sharks, Trinh caused wires to be sent, including emails to customers, and electronic filings with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
During the same time period, Trinh admitted that he had advertised undersized nurse shark pups for sale on eBay and Craigslist, knowing that these sharks were taken in violation of Florida State law – the shark pups were harvested from Florida state waters without the required licenses and permits and out of the lawful season. Trinh conspired with an individual in Florida to obtain these sharks.
Trinh was indicted by a federal grand jury in Florida on November 1, 2012, and charged with Conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. On May 23, 2013, Trinh was indicted by a federal grand jury in California, and charged with Wire Fraud and Lacey Act violations.
The sentence was handed down by The Honorable Richard Seeborg, United States District Court Judge, following a guilty plea on three counts of violating the Lacey Act, in violation of 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(2)(A), six counts of Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Judge Seeborg sentenced the defendant to three years of probation with 5 months home detention, and ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Fund, which provides money to those who provide information leading to an arrest or criminal conviction for a violation of the Lacey Act. Judge Seeborg also ordered the defendant to pay $14,400 in restitution: $5,400 to be paid to the California Academy of Sciences, and $9,000 to be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, created by Congress to protect and restore fish and wildlife and their habitats. Trinh was also ordered to forfeit his truck and fishing vessel, and ordered to relinquish all rights he has to any state fishing, hunting or other wildlife collecting licenses.
Northern District of California AUSA Maureen Bessette and Southern District of Florida AUSA Thomas A. Watts-Fitzgerald prosecuted the case with the assistance of Janice Pagsanjan. The prosecution is the result of a two year investigation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement.