Caviar Smuggler|Faces 10 Years

     KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) – A man faces up to 10 years in federal prison for illegally selling paddlefish caviar and paddlefishes in Missouri.
     Undercover Fish and Wildlife agents arrested Petr Babenko after he agreed to buy 80 lbs. of paddlefish and five female paddlefish for $4,625 in 2012. Babenko, 45, of Vineland, N.J., run the European International Foods store there.
     His co-defendant Bogdan Nahapetyan pleaded guilty in November to illegally trafficking in paddlefish. Five other defendants have pleaded guilty to similar charges.
     The paddlefish, or spoonbill (Polydon spathula) is being fished out of the Mississippi River, where it once was common. Missouri prohibits trafficking in paddlefish eggs, but Babenko was convicted under the federal Lacey Act.
     The jury deliberated for 35 minutes before convicting him, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. In addition to prison, he could be fined up to $500,000 and must forfeit a 2011 Mercedes-Benz van he used to commit the crime.

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