Furniture firm owner allegedly smuggled endangered sea species

Furniture dealer charged with smuggling fish from Mexico to ship to China

The owner of a Los Angeles furniture business was charged Friday with smuggling endangered species of sea creatures from Mexico and shipping them to China, where they are considered a delicacy.

Kam Wing Chan, 61, of Monterey Park, is charged with eight felony counts of smuggling abalone, sea cucumber and totoaba from Mexico to San Diego. He is set to appear in San Diego federal court Feb. 6.

Charges have also been filed against Chan's business, Kaven Co., which imports furniture from China.

The company was used as a front for bringing the abalone, sea cucumber and totoaba, worth more than $3 million, into the U.S. and then shipping them to China to companies owned by Chan's relatives, according to federal prosecutors.

A single dried swim bladder from the totoaba, used for soup, can be sold for $1,400 to $4,000 in Mexico, and up to $40,000 in Asia, according to prosecutors.

Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, said that her agency "will do everything in its power to make sure marine resources are protected and wildlife trafficking is shut down."

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