Calif. Abalone Divers Busted on Poaching Charges

State Fish and Game wardens honed in on 14 abalone poaching suspects in an early-morning multiple-city raid Thursday morning, charging the divers with taking more abalone than they were supposed to during the mollusk-taking season.

Fish and Game Lt. Patrick Foy said by mid-morning all but one of the suspected poachers had been charged with misdemeanor crimes, as well as some unrelated crimes during the sweep of homes in Oakland, Alameda, San Leandro, Fairfield and Sacramento.

The suspects were also arrested on other charges, including one who failed to register as a sex offender. In another case, Foy said wardens stumbled on a cache of weapons and were investigating their legal status.

Suspects arrested were Chinh Quan Le, 60, Khoa Dang Nguyen, 40, Hung Ngoc Quoc Vo, 41 and Toi Van Nguyen, 48. All four men are from Oakland and all four had previous abalone poaching convictions, according to police.

With the proper fishing license and abalone "report card," divers may legally take up to three abalone a day in California, or 24 a season. Foy said some of these suspects had taken double that amount and were either reusing the "report cards" or making fake ones to claim the extra sea food. He said that the multiple report cards and abalone shells in some of the divers' freezers were taken as evidence during the sweep on Thursday.

Since last spring, Foy said wardens have been keeping their eye out on this group, many who have had previous abalone poaching convictions. Wardens spotted them last spring abalone diving in spots such as Moat Creek in Mendocino County and other popular abalone diving spots in Sonoma County.

"They hit our radar screen," Foy said, and "we've been following them around, watching them do this in full scale."

Pictured: Suspect Khoa-Dang-Nguyen is escorted by police.

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