A Brooklyn federal court judge sentenced an Elmhurst man to a year in prison last week for smuggling 16 live Asian Bonytongue fish from Malaysia to John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2009, a spokesman for the court said.
Chee “Simon CT” Chaw, of 43rd Avenue and 74th Street, was sentenced by Judge Sandra Townes to one year in prison and received a $4,000 fine for the smuggling, the spokesman said.
Asian Bonytongue, also called Asian arowana or dragon fish, are carnivorous endangered fish which have a special significance in Chinese culture.
Chaw, a naturalized immigrant who went to school in Malaysia and whose parents live in China, was caught smuggling the fish after arriving at JFK via a flight from Hong Kong on April 5, 2009, according to court papers.
When he arrived, Chaw complained to the airline workers that one of his suitcases had not arrived, the papers said. The next day officials found his blue suitcase and discovered inside it 16 plastic bags with water and live fish, the papers said.
Chaw had denied he was transporting wildlife to the United States on his Customs Declaration Form, the papers said.
A special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visited Chaw at his home, where Chaw admitted the suitcase was his, the papers said. During the visit, Chaw said the laws protecting the fish were “bull----” and that he had brought the fish for personal use, not for sale, the papers said.
Chaw had previously imported eight live Asian Bonytongue fish through JFK in 2004, the papers said. He pleaded guilty to the smuggling and was given a non-jury trial.
Deron Castro, Chaw’s Forest Hills attorney, had argued in court papers filed Dec. 8 that Chaw should not receive a sentence that would involve imprisonment. Castro characterized Chaw as a hardworking man and a good employee of Great Eastern Energy in Brooklyn.
“Mr. Chaw is 49-years-old and his only contacts with the criminal justice system related to the importation of fish,” Castro wrote.
He also wrote that Chaw felt remorse for his actions.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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