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Press Release

Chula Vista Resident Guilty of Illegal Importation of $3 Million of Abalone

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

Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie K. Pierson

(619) 546-7976

 

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – August 30, 2017

 

SAN DIEGO – Chula Vista resident Yon Pon Wong pleaded guilty in federal court today to illegally importing $3 million of abalone.

 

In pleading guilty, Wong, doing business as Lucky Company, admitted that he imported the abalone using commercial invoices that falsely identified the seller. The 43 importations Wong referred to occurred between February of 2012, and July of 2015, and involved a total of approximately 67,500 kilograms (148,500 pounds) of abalone. The invoices falsely stated the seller to be Exportadora De Mariscos De Mexico, SA de CV, at the false address of Calle Cubilete No 110, Fracc Capistrano, Tijuana, Mexico. As part of his plea, Wong agreed to forfeit $500,000 of proceeds of the illegal importation.

 

Abalone is a highly regulated fishery in Mexico. The laws of Mexico require that commercial invoices have sufficient information on them to allow tracking of the seafood to its lawful origin. An invoice lacking the true name and address of the vendor does not permit authorities on either side of the border to trace the origin of the product.

 

“NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement is committed to the prevention, deterrence, and elimination of illegal trafficking of marine species,” said James Landon, Director of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. “It is our priority to protect species, such as abalone, that are listed by NOAA Fisheries as species of concern, or that are identified as threatened or endangered.”
 

Wong’s guilty plea represents the commitment of our agents to bring to justice the individuals and companies seeking to defraud the government,” said Dave Shaw, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. “HSI hopes that the prosecution of seafood import companies and its principals will send a strong message to others seeking to violate U.S. trade laws. HSI will continue to work with its local and international law enforcement partners to enforce these laws.”

 

One of the highest priorities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement is to investigate individuals and companies that are involved in the unlawful commercial trafficking and smuggling of protected animals and plants here and around the world,” said Dan Crum, Assistant Special Agent in Charge. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with our agency partners, will work tirelessly to dismantle wildlife trafficking schemes, and ensure that those engaged in the illegal black market are held accountable.”

 

Wong was ordered to appear before U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns on November 20, 2017, at 9:00 am for sentencing.

 

DEFENDANT Criminal Case No. 17cr2443-LAB

 

Yon Pon Wong Age: 65 Chula Vista, California

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

 

False Labeling, 16 U.S.C. § 3372(d)(1) and 3373(d)(3)(A)(i)

Maximum penalty: 5 years’ prison, fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offense, restitution, forfeiture of proceeds generated from the, three years of supervised release.

 

AGENCIES

 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement

Homeland Security Investigations

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement

Updated August 31, 2017

Topic
Environment
Press Release Number: CAS17-0830-Wong