Long Beach man indicted by Alaska grand jury for international coral trafficking

Allen William Ockey of Long Beach was charged April 21 with 13 felony counts of conspiracy, violation of the Lacey Act, which makes it illegal to knowingly import wildlife sold in violation of U.S. or international law, and smuggling coral from the Philippines, according to the indictment.

Some of the corals were also sold in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty implemented to prevent species from becoming threatened or extinct due to international trade, according to the indictment.

The indictment was filed in Alaska because all of the alleged contraband coral landed and passed through Anchorage, Alaska, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The 10 people charged collectively purchased and transported for sale more than 3,000 separate pieces of coral in violation of Philippine and U.S. law, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The corals include large polyp hard corals, live soft corals and mushroom corals, none of which were legal for export under Philippine law, according to court documents.

The Republic of the Philippines straddles the “Coral Triangle”, a 5.4 million square kilometer expanse of ocean that contains three-quarters of the world’s coral species, according to the indictment. Due to various factors, including poaching, only 5% of the Philippines’ coral reefs are in “excellent” condition, and only 1% of them are in “perfect” condition, according to court documents.

Ockey allegedly purchased a variety of corals from a Filipino citizen identified in the indictment as an “unindicted GAB co-conspirator” between July 18, 2017 and March 26, 2018, according to court documents. Between October 3, 2017 and December 7, 2017, GAB allegedly sold and exported five shipments consisting of more than 300 coral fragments to Ockey for commercial resale, according to the indictment.

The indictment states that because the shipping method was designed to conceal the contents, most of the corals “died en route or shortly thereafter on the journey from the Philippines, through Alaska. , to their destination.

In any case, Ockey allegedly sold the corals to collectors and hobbyists through two online companies, West Coast Frags and Legit Fish Aquarium Service, according to the indictment.

Ockey communicated with GAB via a Facebook message, according to the indictment. In an example of the communication included in the indictment that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has ruled against the Lacey Act and in violation of U.S. law, Ockey sent the message “Next shipment, are you able to ‘ship somewhat larger colonies?’ on October 6, 2017.

GAB then allegedly replied, “large settlements need larger bags, which ups might not allow,” according to the indictment. Ockey then allegedly replied, “Haha, ok bro. I don’t want to get in trouble.

Philippine authorities arrested GAB in August 2018 for the “unlawful collection, possession, sale, and export of ordinary, precious, and semi-precious corals from the coral reefs of the Philippines,” according to court records.

Ockey faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for violating the Lacey Act, and an additional 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for smuggling, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A person answering the phone listed for Ockey’s two companies hung up when asked about the indictment.

Ockey will be arraigned in an Anchorage court on May 17, according to court records.

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