Oakland Woman Pleaded Guilty For Bringing Illegal Wildlife Into The United States
OAKLAND – Patty Chen pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday, January 17, 2014, to False Statement and Lacey Act violations for her involvement in illegally bringing wildlife into the United States from Ecuador, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced.
In pleading guilty, Chen admitted to bringing wildlife products including shark fins, shark fin noodles, sea horses, dried conch, dried fish and eel maw, valued at $29,760 from Ecuador into the United States. Chen admitted that on each occasion that she illegally brought wildlife into the United States, she falsified the United States Customs Service Declaration by falsely stating that she was not transporting wildlife products into the United States.
Chen, 67 of Oakland, was indicted by a federal Grand Jury on July 25, 2013, in the Southern District of Florida, with two counts of violating the Lacey Act, in violation of 16 U.S.C. § 3372(d)(1), and two counts of violating the False Statement Statute, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(3). The case was transferred to the Northern District of California on November 22, 2013. Chen pleaded guilty to all counts.
Chen’s sentencing is scheduled for May 9, 2014, before the Honorable Jon S. Tigar, United States District Court Judge in Oakland. The maximum statutory penalty for each count of the Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. § 3372(d)(1) is 5 years imprisonment, 3 years supervised release, a fine of $250,000, plus restitution; for each count of the False Statement Statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(3), is 5 years imprisonment, three years supervised, 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 are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the case with the assistance of Janice Pagsanjan. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, Office for Law Enforcement, assisted by Homeland Security Investigations.