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.