Some black market operators deal in stolen electronics. Others in guns. Kluok Chan's product of choice was the geoduck, according to a Pierce County Superior Court case announced last week by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Turns out, there's serious money in the monster-sized mollusk.
Chan, a onetime employee of wholesaler Barclay Seafood, was stealing from the company and offering cut rate deals to a chain of stores called Pal Do World, which has locations in Lakewood and Federal Way, according to court papers. The documents do not disclose how much Chan is accused of stealing but, reached yesterday by phone, Fish and Wildlife Deputy Chief Mike Cenci said agents have so far determined that the backdoor entrepreneur nabbed 5,000 pounds of geoducks over an extended period of time. Selling them for $8 a pound ($4 under the going wholesale rate), according to court papers, he would have made $40,000.
Chang is charged with five counts of trafficking in stolen property. In addition, two managers from Pal Do World, Kwang Mo Lee and Myung Lee, are being charged with engaging in fish dealing activity without a license.
The latter is surely one of the more fanciful sounding charges that come through Superior Court. But the state takes the matter of seafood licenses very seriously, according to Cenci. His department requires an array of documentation from fishers, wholesalers and retailers to ensure that neither overharvesting nor harvesting in contaminated waters occur. In this case, Chan was selling geoducks harvested by licensed fishers to Pal Do World, Cenci says. But the store also proved willing to buy geoducks that could have come from anywhere. Undercover agents posing as illicit seafood purveyors offloaded hundreds of pounds of geoducks to the store despite their upfront assertions that they had none of the required paperwork, according to court papers.
The case follows a long and murky tradition of illicit seafood peddling in the Northwest. In 2003, so-called "geoduck kingpin" Doug Tobin was sentenced to 14 years in prison after running a clandestine operation that netted $1.2 million worth of illegal clams.