Furniture store owner sentenced for smuggling endangered fish to China

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SAN DIEGO — The owner of a Los Angeles-based furniture business was sentenced Tuesday in San Diego to six months of home detention in a federal case involving the smuggling of endangered abalone and Totoaba fish.

In addition to electronic monitoring, Kam Wing Chan, the owner of Kaven Co. Inc., must pay a $2,000 fine and $5,000 restitution to CONAPESCA, a Mexican agency charged with oversight of fish and shellfish.

Kaven Co. was also ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution to PROFEPA, an agency of the Mexican government charged with the protection of endangered species, and forfeit 58 Totoaba swim bladders.

According to court documents, Kaven engaged in illegal trafficking of seafood, including endangered species such as Totoaba and abalone, from 2010 to 2013.

Chan, under the name of his company, exported the seafood he purchased in Mexico to buyers in Asia, primarily to Convenience Trading Company in Hong Kong, a firm owned by his sister, Faye Chan.

On Oct. 9, 2012, Chan entered the United States from Mexico at the San Ysidro Port of Entry and said he had nothing to declare. Inspectors discovered three large plastic bags containing black and white abalone, which are endangered, prosecutors said.

On Feb. 26, 2013, Chan entered the United States from Mexico at the Calexico West Port of Entry and declared Corvina fish. In a secondary inspection, officers discovered 58 Totoaba swim bladders underneath the Corvina.

Totoaba is a fish that has been listed as an endangered species since 1979.

Chan, 61, told officers that he got the bladders from a Mexican couple with a cooler who approached him in Mexicali as he was celebrating the Chinese New Year, court papers show.

Chan claimed to have paid $1,700 for the swim bladders. But based on information obtained in other Totoaba seizures, the Totoaba in the cooler would cost at least $81,000.

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