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A Milpitas, Calif., man who ran a wholesale fish business pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday to charges related to illegally catching and selling undersized California leopard sharks from San Francisco Bay.
Dean Trinh, 43, pleaded guilty to three counts of illegally selling the sharks, six counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Trinh entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg and will be sentenced by Seeborg on Nov. 12.
Trinh operated his fish business in Milpitas under the names of AquatopUSA LLC, High Tech Auctions and Hightechauction.com.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Trinh admitted during the plea to taking undersized California leopard sharks from the bay and selling them to customers in Canada and Florida.
Trinh caught the sharks from a boat called "Shark Hunter" and advertised them for sale on the Internet, according to a May 23 indictment by a federal grand jury.
Leopard shark pups are born 10 inches long. A state law prohibits sales of the fish until they are at least 36 inches long.
Trinh was charged under the federal Lacey Act, a U.S. law that makes it illegal to acquire, transport or sell fish or wildlife in violation of state laws.
The conspiracy conviction was for scheming to purchase nurse shark pups over the Internet. That charge was originally filed in a separate federal case in Florida and was later combined with the other charges in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.