Furniture store owner pleads guilty to smuggling endangered fish to China
SAN DIEGO — A Los Angeles-based furniture business and its owner pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court Tuesday to charges related to the smuggling of endangered abalone and totoaba fish that could have been sold for millions of dollars in China.
According to court documents, Kam Wing Chan used his Asian furniture business, Kaven Company, to purchase the endangered species in Mexico, import them into the United States and then export them to Asia.
Chan, 61, admitted that in 2013 he smuggled into the United States 37 pounds of dried abalone — including the endangered white and black abalone — and 58 totoaba swim bladders, which had been purchased in violation of Mexican law.
The seafood was then illegally exported to companies owned by one of Chan’s relatives in China, according to the U.S. government.
Both abalone and totoaba are prized in Asia, where they are considered “culinary delicacies” and often adorn the buffets at festival meals and are served at formal dinners.
As part of the plea agreement, the defendants agreed to forfeit the smuggled fish and make restitution to the government of Mexico in the amount of $55,000 for the loss of natural resources and pay fines totaling $14,500.