FWS Seeks Help in Finding Alleged Fish Smuggler


     (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants the public's help in tracking down a California man charged with smuggling and trafficking piranhas and stingrays.
     Isaac Zimerman, 61, failed to appear at a federal court hearing on July 12, prompting a warrant for his arrest. Authorities say Zimerman may have tried to leave the United States as soon as June 21.
     The government says Zimerman illegally imported and sold live piranha, fresh water stingrays and arapaima, one of the largest freshwater tropical fish.
     It is against the law to own or sell live piranhas and fresh-water stingrays in California and most of the United States.
     Piranhas and stingrays can harm humans and native species if released into the waters of warm-climate states.
     Zimerman owns two tropical fish stores, River Wonders in Hawthorne, Calif., and Da Tien Pets in Gardena, Calif., which he allegedly used to sell, import and export the fish.
     Zimerman was indicted in Los Angeles last August on 13 felony counts of conspiracy, illegal fish trafficking, smuggling fish into and out of the United States, falsifying documents, obstructing an investigation by the Fish and Wildlife Service, making false statements, and smuggling fish out of the U.S. while free on bond.
     His wife, Leonore Catalina Zimerman, pleaded guilty in June to illegal fish trafficking and is awaiting sentencing.
     Most of the counts in the indictment carry maximum sentences of five years in federal prison.