Poachers Sentenced for Trafficking Abalone in Bay Area

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An abalone poacher and restaurant owner have both been convicted and fined for engaging in the illegal sale of sport-caught abalone. Two state agencies, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and California State Parks (CSP), worked together with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the case and aggressively prosecute the crimes.

“Illegal commercialization of California’s abalone resources will not be tolerated,” said Tony Warrington, Assistant Chief of the DFG Law Enforcement Division.

In the fall of 2009, CSP rangers began to suspect abalone trafficking after making multiple contacts with diver Michael Sean Miller, 55, of Petaluma, in the area around Fisk Mill. Rangers relayed the information to DFG’s Special Operations Unit, which began to investigate. Wardens soon observed Miller harvesting abalone and transporting them to the rear entrance of Pacific Restaurant, 1045 Terra Nova Blvd. in Pacifica. There, Miller was observed selling the illegally taken abalone to the restaurant’s owner, Pim Lim Szeto, 51 of San Francisco. Wardens arrested both subjects for the illegal sale and purchase of abalone.

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office began to prosecute the case in October 2009. Szeto was subsequently fined $20,000 and sentenced to 90 days work release time.
His fishing license was revoked for life.

In May 2011, Miller pled guilty to poaching charges. He was fined $15,000 and sentenced to 90 days work release time with three years probation. He was also ordered to forfeit all dive gear and fishing equipment. His fishing licence has been revoked for life and he is prohibited from possessing abalone.