2 plead guilty in scheme to smuggle endangered Asian fish to U.S.


Two men have been put on probation and ordered to pay fines after pleading guilty in San Diego federal court to a scheme to smuggle endangered Asian fish into the U.S. for sale.

Michael Loo of San Diego was sentenced to three years’ probation and a $1,000 fine. Kiem Tran of Westminster was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $1,000 fine.

The two were part of a scheme to smuggle the endangered Asian arowana fish, according to prosecutors.


The plan was discovered when Loo put an ad on Craigslist offering to sell one of the fish for $2,800. An undercover federal agent answered the ad, prosecutors said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents seized 13 of the fish, which are found in the rivers of Southeast Asia and have long been on an international list of restricted species.

Known as “bonytongue” or “dragon fish,” the arowana can grow to 3 feet in length. Folk wisdom holds that they can bring luck, prosperity and long life to anyone who possesses one.

Tran owns Fish Warehouse in Westminster.

Loo pleaded guilty to the lawful sale of restricted fish; Tran to transporting merchandise illegally imported into the U.S.

The fish have been given to SeaWorld San Diego and the San Diego Zoo.