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Guilty Plea In Sea Cucumber Scam 

U.S. Department of Justice
A Washington-based seafood processor pleaded guilty to illegally over-harvesting sea cucumbers, a delicacy protected by federal law.

The owner of a seafood processing company in Pierce County, Washington, has pleaded guilty in a case involving the illegal sale of sea cucumbers, leathery creatures that are considered a delicacy to eat in some cultures.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Hoon Namkoong ran Orient Seafood Production. He was charged with underreporting by a 250,000 pounds the amount of sea cucumbers he bought from tribal and non-tribal fishermen in Puget Sound.

Prosecutors say Namkoong processed and sold the sea cucumbers to buyers in the U.S. and Asia for approximately $1.5 million. They also say the scam resulted in the overharvesting of sea cucumbers.

As part of a plea deal, Namoong pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, a federal law designed to protect fish, wildlife and plants. His sentencing is scheduled for July.

Last year, a father and son in San Diego were indicted for smuggling $17 million worth of sea cucumbers.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."