Charges Shed Light on Sea Cucumber Smuggling at US Border

5/20/2017 New York Times

san-ysidro-border-crossing-by-flickr-user-otzbergSAN DIEGO — Charges against a father-son partnership for allegedly smuggling more than $17 million worth of sea cucumbers to the United States and exporting them to Asia sheds light on a growing and lucrative illegal cross-border trade.

David Mayorquin and his father, Ramon Torres Mayorquin, are accused of a scheme to buy the illegally harvested animals from poachers in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, pay for them under fake names and underestimate their weight and value to inspectors at San Diego’s Otay Mesa border crossing, across from Tijuana, Mexico. From San Diego, they allegedly shipped the product to Asia, including China, where they are delicacies in Chinese dishes, prized for medicinal value and considered an aphrodisiac.

Border inspectors have spotted smuggled Mexican sea cucumbers for years, but the charges against the Mayorquins and their family business, Blessings Inc. of Tucson, Arizona, are striking for the multi-ton shipments. Authorities say they sell for $300 to $500 a kilogram in Asia, helping explain the draw for poachers and smugglers.

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