Illinois man pleads guilty to trafficking paddlefish in Missouri
JEFFERSON CITY - An Illinois man pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally trafficking paddlefish caviar in the Warsaw area.
United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Tammy Dickinson said Fedor Pakhnyuk, of Hinsdale, Ill., pleaded guilty after being caught in an undercover operation called "Operation Roadhouse."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Missouri Department of Conservation conducted the operation where state and federal officers worked undercover as a paddlefish snagging business during the 2011 and 2012 paddlefish seasons. The covert officers also sold paddlefish to people who were interested in buying them.
Dickinson said Pakhnyuk admitted he traveled to Missouri in April 2010 and spoke with the undercover officers, giving them a sample of caviar he had made and telling them how he made paddlefish eggs into caviar.
Dickinson in April 2011 said Pakhnyuk went back to the area in Missouri where undercover agents saw him often, also with his family, processing paddlefish at a fish cleaning station behind a motel. Dickinson said the agents learned he was making deals with fishermen where he would take a portion of the eggs in exchange for cleaning their paddlefish.
According to Dickinson, Pakhnyuk talked with the agents about possibly entering the caviar business together and split the profits. Pakhnyuk told the officers he had processed 80 quarts of caviar during his time in the Warsaw area, and 72 quarts had already sold for $15,000. Dickinson said Pakhnyuk told the agents he already had orders for 50 liters of caviar for the following year.
Dickinson said Pakhnyuk came back to Missouri in April 2012 to negotiate with the covert agents and bring 40 jars of processed caviar back to Illinois.
According to the law, Dickinson said Pakhnyuk could face up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a $250,000 fine.
Four other men have also been charged with similar crimes as part of Operation Roadhouse.