By Alex Robinson
The owner of a Flushing seafood trading company was found guilty last week of storing fish at his College Point warehouse without having the proper permits, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Following a one-week bench trial, Oi Ming Chen, 46, of Ridgewood, was convicted of storing fish without the necessary permits and for illegally possessing undersized fish at his Ace Group Seafood International Trading Corp., the DA said.
“State environmental laws are in effect to wisely manage our wildlife resources and, in this case, to monitor how fish are distributed to retailers and the general public,” Brown said. “By failing to obtain the appropriate permits, the defendant skirted the law.”
Chen was originally arrested in 2011 after the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service carried out a search of his warehouse, at 133-38 32 Ave., and found large tubs of water that were around 30 yards by 10 yards in diameter and 3 feet deep, according to a criminal complaint filed by the DA’s office.
The tubs contained approximately 50 crates each, two of which were open and investigators said contained undersized fish, the complaint said.
Investigators observed a number of Tautog fish, which were less than 14 inches, according to the complaint. Fish traders are not allowed to legally posses any Tautog that are shorter than that length.
Investigators also found oyster toad fish and horseshoe crab, the complaint said. The possession of these fish for commercial use without a license is illegal, the DA’s office said.
Chen was charged with purchasing, packing, holding or storing marine fish or crustaceans without a license and violating size and catch limits, the DA said.
State records show Chen’s company, which was listed as Ace Group Trading Co., had been dissolved as a business entity with the Department of State as of October 2010.
Chen later registered the company in May 2011 with the Department of State under a slightly different name, Ace Group Seafood International Trading Co., without ever having the previous dissolution annulled, and therefore all fish he sold from October 2010 onward was done so illegally, according to the complaint.
Chen will be sentenced April 11 and could face up to four years in prison. His company could be slapped with up to $10,000 or an amount double the profit the business received illegally, the DA’s office said.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.