Judge orders probation for Georgia man caught in Mobile-based fish trafficking sting

Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 6:31 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A Columbus, Ga., man who pleaded guilty to a fish trafficking charge will not to go to prison, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Cuong Duc Bui pleaded guilty in June to fish trafficking and attempted fish trafficking. U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer sentenced Bui to five years’ probation and fined him $25,000. The judge also imposed restrictions on his ability to sell seafood and work in the industry. In addition, the defendant will not be allowed to have more than 10 pounds of seafood.

Defense attorney Buzz Jordan said there is a possibility that his client’s probation could be reduced to four years if he complies with certain rules.

“Typically in these cases, the government’s not looking for prison time. … He (Bui) accepted responsibility for his actions,” Jordan said. “He admitted guilt.”

Agents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration investigated the case as party of a larger operation targeting the commercialization of recreationally caught fish.

According to his written plea agreement, Bui ran a store in Columbus called S Mart that sold fish and other items. He admitted to buying from recreational and other unlicensed dealers. That is a violation of the Lacey Act, passed in 1900 to protect wildlife.

From February to through July 23 in 2018, an undercover agent posing as a fisherman based on Mobile sold hundreds of pounds of red snapper that the defendant believed to have been caught recreationally or without proper fishing permits. Bui said admitted that he sought thousands of pounds of fish.

During clandestine meetings in Atmore, Bui would load the fish into his van and then drive back to his market in Columbus. The combined sales totaled 2,250 pounds of red snapper worth $14,000, along with 150 pounds of king mackerel, according to the plea agreement.

Jordan said his client no longer owns the store in Columbus.

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