East Bay Developer Pleads No Contest to Felony Charges

Media Contacts:
Nicole Kozicki, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (925) 376-1274
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, 322-8958

A Dublin land developer pleaded no contest today to charges of submitting fraudulent documents to the City of Dublin in an attempt to avoid development requirements to protect two state-protected species, the California Tiger Salamander and the Red-legged frog.

After a two-and-a-half year investigation, attorneys for Yuen Liam Tong (aka James Tong), owner of Charter Properties, reached a plea arrangement with  State Attorney General’s Office and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The terms of the agreement include the following penalties:

  • One year of Federal and State probation, including four months’ home confinement.
  • A $350,000 fine payable to the Alameda County Fish and Game Commission.
  • A $300,000 fine payable to the CDFW wildlife pollution and wildlife preservation funds.
  • Preserving 107 acres of land in Contra Costa County known as the “Brown Ranch” In a conservation easement.

“CDFW is happy to work with developers around the state to build new homes and business, but they must comply with environmental regulations and laws involving threatened and endangered species,” said Warden Nicole Kozicki, the CDFW wildlife officer in charge of the investigation. “This was a long and complicated case that had a great outcome for a special California animal species.”

While developing land in Dublin in 2012, Tong was required to purchase offsite mitigation credits to counter the effects of building in habitat that was home to native endangered species. Tong committed forgery by submitting fraudulent conservation bank payment receipts to the City of Dublin, totaling more than $3.2 million. No payments were actually made for the specified development.

The California Tiger Salamander is listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), which provides protection for native species of wildlife, plants and habitats that are facing decline and possible extinction. The Red-legged frog is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Conservation banks are permanently protected lands that provide shelter to endangered, threatened at at-risk species.