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October 23, 2009
Contact: Mike Cenci, (360) 902-2938

WDFW investigation nets charges for illegal geoduck sale

OLYMPIA - Three men face multiple charges of illegally buying geoduck clams, following a 13-month investigation by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) enforcement program.

Kwang Mo Lee, 52, and Myung C. Lee, 48, have each been charged by Pierce County prosecutors with seven counts of buying geoduck clams without a commercial license. Kluok Chan, 33, was charged with five counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Kwang Lee was the store manager at Pal Do World, which has stores in Lakewood and Federal Way and is involved in wholesale and retail food sales. Myung Lee was seafood manager of the store in Lakewood.

Mike Cenci, WDFW deputy enforcement chief, said detectives began their investigation after field officers noted several apparent violations during routine inspections at the Pal Do World stores. WDFW officers enforce sanitary shellfish laws and inspect markets to ensure fish and shellfish products were legally harvested.

During the investigation, Kwang Mo Lee and Myung C. Lee allegedly made illegal purchases of geoduck clams from WDFW undercover detectives on two occasions in 2008 and 2009, Cenci said.

Documents seized in that case indicated Kluok Chan, a King County resident, allegedly stole geoduck from a licensed geoduck company, then sold the geoduck on at least 10 occasions to the Pal Do World employees.

Kluok Chan was charged with five counts of trafficking in stolen property in the first degree, punishable by up to $20,000 in fines, 10 years imprisonment or both.

Both Myung Lee and Kwang Lee, charged with buying geoduck clams without a commercial license, could also face fines, imprisonment and loss of fish-buying privileges for two years.

"We take crimes against state resources very seriously," Cenci said. "In this case, we also are looking into additional charges related to public safety and health issues often associated with theft and trafficking of illegal shellfish."