By Eric Kurhi
A Milpitas man was sentenced to five months home detention and ordered to pay fines and restitution for his role in a live shark poaching operation that illegally sold undersized leopard sharks caught in the bay and nurse sharks from Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Dean Tuan Trinh, 44, pleaded guilty on Aug. 8 to charges related to pulling leopard sharks out of San Francisco Bay that were below the 36-inch minimum length, and selling them to customers in Canada and Florida through his Milpitas businesses: Aquatop USA, High Tech Auctions and hightechauction.com.
Trinh also acknowledged "that he conspired to transport, sell, receive, acquire and purchase illegally collected nurse shark pups over the Internet, " according to the U.S. attorney's office. Those nurse shark pups were offered for sale on eBay and Craigslist.
"The shark pups were harvested from Florida state waters without the required licenses and permits and out of the lawful season," states a Department of Justice news release. "Trinh conspired with an individual in Florida to obtain these sharks."
Trinh was indicted by federal grand juries in California and Florida, and charged with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act -- a law dating to 1900 that prohibits trade in plants and wildlife that have been illegally harvested -- as well as wire fraud and conspiracy charges.
While the maximum sentence could have been decades in prison, Trinh's punishment includes the home detention, three years of probation, a $10,000 fine that will go to the Lacey Act Reward Fund and $14,400 in restitution, which will be paid to the California Academy of Sciences and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Trinh was also ordered to forfeit his fishing boat, named the "Shark Hunter," and a Toyota Tundra double-cab, which were used to catch and transport the sharks.