Three Colorado men plead guilty to Missouri paddlefish trafficking
JEFFERSON CITY - Three Colorado men pleaded guilty Monday to illegally trafficking paddlefish caviar after being caught in an undercover operation, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with the Missouri Department of Conservation to conduct a covert investigation called "Operation Roadhouse," the attorney's office said. As part of the operation, which was centered in an area known as Roadhouse in Warsaw, officers operated a paddlefish snagging business and sold the paddlefish to interested buyers.
Arkadiy Lvovskiy, 54, and Dmitri Elitchev, 49 both pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to illegally traffic paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act.
Artour Magdessian, 48, pleaded guilty to trafficking paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act.
Lvovskiy and Elitchev admitted to traveling to Warsaw multiple times to purchase paddlefish and containers of paddlefish eggs. They then processed those eggs into caviar and transported them from Missouri to Colorado, according to the attorney's office.
Lvovskiy, Elitchev and Magdessian all admitted to to traveling to Warsaw with co-defendant Felix Baravik, 50, where they purchased paddlefish from the covert agents and other sources. They then processed the eggs from those fish into caviar and transported it to Colorado, according to the attorney's office.
Baravik pleaded guilty in August 2014 to illegally trafficking paddlefish in violation of the Lacey Act.
Paddlefish area a protected species under federal law. "The American paddlefish is an important cultural and sport-fishing resource to the people of Missouri," Edward Greece, Deputy Chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Law Enforcement, said.
The Lacey Act is a federal statute which makes it illegal for anyone to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase fish taken, possessed, transported or sold illegally. Such conduct constitutes a felony if the defendant knowingly engaged in the purchase or sale of fish that were taken, transported or sold illegally with a market value of $350 or more.