CDFW Officers Arrest 13 Poaching Suspects in Oakland and Sacramento

Abalone shellsMedia Contacts:
Sacramento Media: Warden Mark Michilizzi, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 996-9003
Bay Area Media: Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

Based on an intensive investigation dubbed Operation Oakland Abalone Syndicate, California game wardens arrested 13 suspects in Oakland and Sacramento for harvesting sport caught abalone and possession for commercial sale. It is illegal to harvest wild abalone for commercial sale anywhere in California.

Suspects arrested were Chinh Quan Le, 60, Khoa Dang Nguyen, 40, Hung Ngoc Quoc Vo, 41 and Toi Van Nguyen, 48. All four men are from Oakland and all four had previous abalone poaching convictions. In addition, wardens arrested Hai Van Ha, 43, Duoc Van Nguyen, 48 and Nhan Trong Le, 46, all also of Oakland, and Andy Phan, 47, of Fairfield and Charlie Le, 55, of Alameda. In Sacramento officers arrested Dung Van Nguyen, 40, Hiep Ho, 46, Hung Van Le, 42 and Tho Than Phan, 59.

“Unless it is stopped, poaching will degrade California’s abalone population over time,” said CDFW’s Capt. David Bess. “It ultimately affects the honest, sport abalone harvesters who follow the laws.”
Based upon surveillance, game wardens allege the men conspired to profit from the sale of abalone with a black market network of buyers in the Bay Area and Sacramento.

Game wardens wish to express appreciation for the honest abalone divers’ patience with abalone report card requirements and abalone checkpoints. Both were an integral part of the investigation. The suspects face charges ranging from felony conspiracy to multiple poaching-related violations.

CDFW Officers Cite Two for Abalone Poaching in Marine Protected Area

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens cited two Southern California men for illegally taking Abalone from the Marine Protected Area (MPA) near Laguna Beach recently.

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CDFW wildlife officers observed Juni Pong, 47, from El Monte and Kuan Yee, 47, from Yorba Linda, entering the ocean at Moss Cove in Laguna Beach in full SCUBA gear. After more than an hour of diving the two men returned to the beach and were met by an officer who found two green abalone in each of the men’s diving gear.

Both suspects were cited for possession of abalone and take of fish inside a marine protected area, both potential misdemeanor violations, and then released. The abalone were photographed for evidence and returned to the sea, the men’s diving equipment was confiscated and impounded as evidence.

Abalone may only be taken north of San Francisco Bay during prescribed seasons. For complete ocean fishing regulations see http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/

The case will be forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.

Media Contacts:
Lt. Eric Kord, CDFW Enforcement, (858) 538-6017
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

 

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Abalone Poachers Sentenced to Probation, Community Service, Fined and Lose Gear

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has noted an apparent increase in abalone poaching in Southern California waters. Potential abalone poachers and the general public should be aware wardens are on the lookout and penalties for illegally taking abalone can be stiff.

Two Southern California men recently pleaded no contest to misdemeanor Fish and Game Code violations in Los Angeles Superior Court. They were each ordered to:

  • Serve three years’ probation;
  • Pay a $2,405 fine;
  • Pay an additional $1,000 fine to the Department of Fish and Wildlife to be used to implement wildlife preservation policies;
  • Successfully complete a 3- to 5-unit marine biology course at a local college;
  • Serve 40 hours of community service, and
  • Forfeit diving and fishing gear.

Curatola abalone-knife

Wade Anthony Curtatola of Rancho Cucamonga was diving off Catalina Island on Sept. 29, 2012, the opening day of lobster season. With no other boats in the area a warden went into the water near where Curtatola surfaced behind a boat and found a spear gun and game bag filled with a horn shark, four abalone and 13 lobster tails in 30 feet of water. Samples of genetic materials taken from Curtatola’s equipment matched the species found in the dive bag. Curtatola pleaded to misdemeanor counts of taking abalone in a closed area, over-limit of lobster and possession of tailed lobster.

“All it takes is one drop of blood, or a few cells from an animal to make positive identifications of illegally taken species,” said Lt. Eric Kord, CDFW Law Enforcement. “CDFW and our partners are using the latest tools and technology to help protect California’s resources.”

Bruce Allen Boyd of Oceanside was fishing off Catalina Island the same day, Sept. 29, when wildlife officers boarded his boat for an inspection. Wildlife officers found a dive bag with a large abalone concealed in a trash can. The abalone was photographed and returned to the ocean. Boyd was charged with one violation and pleaded to a misdemeanor count of taking abalone in a closed area.

It has been illegal to take abalone since 1997 in the southern half of the state (San Francisco Bay south to Mexican border) due to over fishing, disease and sea otter predation.

“We have seen a pretty sharp rise in abalone poaching here in Southern California over the last 18 months or so,” said Kord. “Most anglers are responsible fishermen and know the laws; the enforcement is to protect resources from the rest.”

Illegally taking abalone has some of the highest penalties in the Fish and Game Code, and can include of up to a year in jail, fines in the thousands of dollars, permanent loss of fishing licenses and confiscation of fishing and diving gear.

 

Media Contacts:
Lt. Eric Kord, CDFW Law Enforcement, (858) 538-6017
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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