Four Abalone Poachers Sentenced

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Posted by DFG news release on October 17, 2004 at 18:38:51:

Contact: Warden Bob Aldrich (707) 584- 2920

SACRAMENTO Four abalone fishermen from Sacramento were recently sentenced in Sonoma County Court for their role in abalone poaching along the Sonoma and Mendocino county coasts, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) announced.

The men plead no contest to charges they conspired to take and possess abalone in violation of Fish & Game regulations by taking over limits of abalone, impersonating each other, and buying and falsifying numerous fishing licenses in order to avoid compliance with regulations and apprehension by DFG officers.

Nhat Van Nguyen, 32, Hung Van Nguyen, 26, and My Van Nguyen, 35, were sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $2,000 each. Ninh The Khong, 29, received 45 days in jail and a fine of $1,250. All four received supervised court probation with several stipulations in effect for three years, including having all hunting and fishing licenses revoked, being unable to harvest or take abalone, being ordered to stay away from the Pacific Ocean in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties, submitting to search and seizure of their persons, vehicles, and places of residence (day or night) by officers without a search warrant, and loss of their diving gear which is to be forfeited to the Sonoma County Sheriffs Office dive team.

Private citizens and State Parks personnel, who had repeatedly noticed the group diving for abalone on an almost daily schedule, first reported the unusual activity to DFG. A surveillance effort was undertaken by personnel from DFG and State Parks. During a three-month period from April through June 1999, DFG officers Bob Aldrich, Karen Maurer, Paul Maurer, Wayne Howe, and Rich Mead apprehended members in the group for violating numerous abalone statutes. During that period, 13 citations were issued for violations ranging from failing to immediately return abalone to the rock from which detached, to taking over limits and undersized abalone.

Several of the men had their fishing licenses seized by the officers because they had been used to impersonate each other, leading to the conspiracy charges. Men in the group purchased additional fishing licenses in the same license year, and/or postdated the licenses in order to avoid compliance with fishing regulations and apprehension. On May 18, an all-day surveillance resulted in seeing the men take a limit of abalone in the morning at Timber Cove, and a second illegal limit of abalone at Fort Ross in the afternoon. All the abalone taken in the morning were transported to Sacramento in another vehicle so the group would not get caught in possession of an over limit of abalone. The vehicle was intercepted by Sacramento Warden Greg Johnson who assisted in the investigation after seizing the abalone.

The group of men then ceased taking abalone in Sonoma county and resumed their activities in Mendocino County near Point Arena where they were again watched by Warden Ed Ramos and found to be using fishing licenses obtained by deceit.

DFG has noticed a tremendous increase in abalone fishing, and along with it, an increase in violations. Anyone with possible Fish & Game violation information is encouraged to call 1-888-DFG-CALTIP, toll-free, (1-888-334-2258).

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