MOUNT VERNON A Sedro-Woolley man is accused of illegally buying hundreds of Dungeness crab from undercover state Department of Fish and Wildlife investigators conducting a sting.
Phuong Van Nguyen , 47, appeared in court Thursday out of custody with an interpreter and pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree unlawful trafficking in fish, shellfish or wildlife.
The sting was part of an ongoing investigation into undocumented commercial fish and shellfish sales. Sources identified to investigators five nail salons and five restaurants in Whatcom and Skagit counties that were known to purchase illegal shellfish.
Investigators set up sales after contacting Diamond Nails in Sedro-Woolley and speaking with Nguyen. The crabs were often delivered to the back of the salon where there was a laundry room with a crab cooker.
Reports show Nguyen told investigators he would use much of the crab for parties in Seattle for people who helped him when he first moved to the state. On several occasions, undercover investigators mentioned to
Nguyen that what he was doing was illegal. He told them he didnt care if it was legal and that he buys them from "indians" all the time. He even asked the undercover investigators where he could purchase geoducks. He was told doing so could get him prison time.
On six occasions in 2012 and 2013, Nguyen purchased illegal crabs from Fish and Wildlife investigators, totalling $1,300 for 840 Dungeness crabs. The charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison or a $10,000 fine.