By Eric Kurhi
A Milpitas man pleaded guilty to federal charges involving a live shark poaching operation that exported undersized specimens caught in the bay and imported juvenile nurse sharks from Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
According to federal officials, Dean Tuan Trinh, 43, admitted to pulling leopard sharks out of the 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.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury in California, and charged with similar crimes in Florida. Under a plea agreement, Trinh pleaded guilty to all counts in both cases. That includes three counts of violating the federal 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. The crimes could result in decades in prison and hefty fines.
Trinh declined to comment on the case or conditions of his plea when reached by phone on Wednesday.
According to the California indictment, Trinh caught leopard sharks in the bay using his fishing boat, the "Shark Hunter," loaded them into a Toyota Tundra double-cab and transported them to his Milpitas business, where he listed them for sale on the Internet.
While state law prohibits taking leopard sharks less than three feet long, Trinh fraudulently told customers that he had a permit to take the undersized specimens. More....