Two San Diego executives arraigned on charges of illegal trafficking of $17 million worth of sea cucumbers
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A Tucson firm and two executives, including one from San Diego, were arraigned in federal court Friday on charges related to the illegal trafficking of $17 million worth of sea cucumbers from 2010 to 2012.
Blessings Inc., its owner David Mayorquin and Ramon Torres Mayorquin of San Diego, were charged in a 26-count indictment with conspiracy, illegal trafficking in wildlife, importation contrary to law, false labeling and criminal forfeiture.
According to the indictment, David Mayorquin, on behalf of Blessings, contacted suppliers of sea cucumbers in Mexico and agreed to purchase approximately $13 million worth of sea cucumbers, knowing that it had been illegally harvested, in excess of permit limits, or without a proper license or permit or out of season.
It was further alleged that Ramon Mayorquin received the shipments of sea cucumbers from the Yucatan to Tijuana, Mexico, and created false invoices to be submitted to U.S. Customs officials, knowing that the ocean animals related to starfish had been illegally harvested, sold and transported, and lacked the proper paperwork required under Mexican law.
According to the indictment, the fraudulent sales invoices submitted to U.S. Customs falsely represented Ramon Mayorquin to be the supplier of the sea cucumbers to Blessings, from a non-existent address in Mexico, for a price less than a 10th of the true price paid by Blessings for the sea cucumbers.
The indictment states that after the sea cucumbers had been imported into the United States, David Mayorquin sold them on behalf of Blessings for about $17.5 million to customers in China and elsewhere.
The indictment alleges that as part of the scheme payments were made to bank accounts held under false names to conceal the illegal sales and hide the proceeds, and payments were also made to Mexican officials to ensure that no action was taken against the illegally harvested sea cucumbers.
Since the beginning of the investigation, with the increased cooperation from Mexican officials, the importation of sea cucumbers from Mexico to the United States through the ports of entry in San Diego have decreased about 93 percent in the past three years.
The defendants are scheduled to be in court July 10 for a motions hearing.