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Press Release

Three Charged with Illegal Trafficking of $17 Million Worth of Sea Cucumbers

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



SAN DIEGO – A Tucson firm and two executives were arraigned in federal court today on charges related to the illegal trafficking of $17 million worth of sea cucumbers from 2010-2012.


Blessings, Inc. of Tucson, its owner David Mayorquin, and Ramon Torres Mayorquin of San Diego were charged in a 26-count indictment with conspiracy, illegal trafficking in wildlife, importation contrary to law, false labeling and criminal forfeiture.


According to the indictment, defendant David Mayorquin, on behalf of Blessings, contacted suppliers of sea cucumbers in Mexico and agreed to purchase approximately $13 million worth of sea cucumbers, knowing that it had been illegally harvested, that is, in excess of permit limits, or without a proper license or permit, or out of season.


It was a further alleged that defendant Ramon Mayorquin received the shipments of sea cucumbers from the Yucatan to Tijuana, Mexico, and created false invoices to be submitted to U.S. Customs officials, knowing that the sea cucumbers had been illegally harvested, sold and transported, and lacked the proper paperwork required under Mexican law.


According to the indictment, the fraudulent sales invoices submitted to U.S. Customs falsely represented defendant Ramon Mayorquin to be the supplier of the sea cucumbers to Blessings, from a non-existent address in Mexico, for a price less than one tenth of the true price paid by Blessings for the sea cucumbers.


The indictment states that after the sea cucumbers had been imported into the United States, defendant David Mayorquin sold the sea cucumbers on behalf of Blessings for approximately $17.5 million to customers in China and elsewhere. The indictment alleges that as part of the scheme payments were made to bank accounts held under false names to conceal the illegal sales and hide the proceeds, and payments were also made to Mexican officials to insure that no action was taken against the illegally harvested sea cucumbers. In furtherance of the scheme, it is alleged that in June of 2011, a co-conspirator in Mexico sent an email to defendant David Mayorquin, stating in substance “We want what is owed in freight to be your contribution for the bribe, 32K.”


Mexican law requires that the lawful origin of fisheries products be demonstrated by means of an arrival, harvest, production, or collection notice or an import permit. The original sales invoice for fisheries products must bear the number associated with the notice of arrival, harvest, production or collection, as well as a description of the product, and all subsequent invoices must bear the number of the invoice from which it derived, so that all fisheries products sold in Mexico can be traced to their lawful origins.


In addition, in Mexico a fisheries waybill is needed for the interstate transportation of fisheries products. It is also violation of Mexican law to harvest, possess, transport, or sell a species out of season, or of less than the minimum established size and weight, or to harvest a species in excess of permit limits or without a proper license or permit. The indictment alleges that the defendants imported sea cucumbers into the United States they knew had been harvested, transported and sold in violation of these Mexican laws.


Since the beginning of this investigation, with the increased cooperation with Mexican officials, the importation of sea cucumbers from Mexico to the United States through the ports of entry in San Diego have decreased approximately 93% in the past three years. According to the NOAA Office of Science and Technology, Commercial Fisheries Statistics Division website, total sea cucumber imports from 2013 through 2016 into the San Diego ports of entry have decreased from 1,096,258 kg in 2013 to 70,708 kg in 2016. Total sea cucumber imports to the U.S. from Mexico have decreased from 4 million kg in 2013 to 3 million kg in 2016.


This case demonstrates the coordination between U.S. federal law enforcement agencies in detecting illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and stopping the trafficking of sea cucumbers into the U.S. from Mexico,” said Assistant Director Will Ellis of NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement. “Sea cucumbers is an important commercial fishery for Mexico and NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement is committed to cooperating with our international partners to safeguard this marine resource.”


The Service's investigation and this subsequent indictment will help stop the illegal harvest and transport of thousands of pounds of sea cucumbers, whose numbers have fallen dramatically over the past few years,” said Ed Grace, Deputy Assistant Director for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. “Sea cucumbers serve an important role in the marine ecosystem, helping recycle nutrients and break down organic matter. Illegal over-harvest threatens more than just the species themselves, impacting delicate coral reefs and local fisheries. Going after criminal poachers and wildlife traffickers like these is not only critical for saving protected species such as sea cucumbers, it also ensures some justice for those impacted by their illegal activities.”


“A large overseas demand for sea cucumbers harvested in Mexico has fueled an increase in illicit importation-schemes uncovered at commercial ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border, ” said Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. “This investigation underscores HSI’s commitment to ensuring U.S. trade laws are not exploited by those seeking financial gain.”


The defendants were ordered to appear before U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez for a hearing on all motions on July 10, 20917, at 2:00 pm.


DEFENDANTS Criminal Case No. 17cr1254-BEN


Blessings, Inc Incorporated: 2003

Tucson, Arizona


David Mayorquin Age: 39

Tucson, Arizona


Ramon Torres Mayorquin Age: 75

Chula Vista, California




Count 1


Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371

Maximum penalty: 5 years’ prison, fine of $250,000


Counts 2-8


Unlawful Importation of Wildlife, 16 U.S.C. §3372(a)(2)(A) and §3373(d)(1)(A)

Maximum Penalty: 5 years’ prison, $250,000 fine


Counts 9-17


Importation Contrary to Law, 18 U.S.C. §545

Maximum Penalty: 20 years’ prison, $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offense, restitution, forfeiture of proceeds generated from the, five years of supervised release.


Counts 18-26


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

Maximum Penalty: 5 years’ prison, $250,000 fine




National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement

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

Homeland Security Investigations


*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Updated May 26, 2017

Press Release Number: CAS17-0526-Mayorquin