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Post date: June 27 2012

A.G. Schneiderman Brings Criminal Charges Against Chinatown Seafood Company For Illegally Selling Dangerously Contaminated Shellfish

Investigation Reveals Thousands Of Pounds Of Clams Offered For Sale With E. Coli and Bacterial Density Levels Of More Than 30 Times The Acceptable Public Health Standard

Schneiderman: We Will Protect The Public By Prosecuting Individuals Who Advance Their Own Greed Above The Law And The Health Of Others

NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric. T. Schneiderman today announced that a New York City seafood company, along with the company’s manager, have been charged with multiple violations regarding the illegal sale of dangerously contaminated, unlabelled fresh water clams. In violation of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law and New York State Penal Law, thousands of pounds of clams were transported in the luggage compartment of a passenger bus where they were not refrigerated and stored in improper containers. They were later found to be for sale at a public market.

According to the felony complaint filed yesterday, testing of samples of the shellfish obtained from the New Lin Sichuan Fish Market showed the clams to be grossly contaminated with fecal matter; laboratory test results indicated that the clams contained Fecal Coliform bacterial density levels of more than 30 times the acceptable public health standard for excessive bacteria, as well as excessive levels of E. coli. Consumption of raw shellfish with this type of gross fecal contamination places a person in substantial risk of serious physical injury or death.

The defendants, New Lin Sichuan Fish Market, Inc., a retail fish store at 30 Market Street, in Manhattan's Chinatown, and its manager Jin Hua Ke, age 51, who resides at 28 Market Street, were both charged in New York County Criminal Court with two counts of Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife (a Class “E” felony), one count of Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife (a Class “A” Misdemeanor) and one count of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree (a Class “A” misdemeanor). If convicted, New Lin Sichuan Fish Market, Inc. faces fines of up to $30,000 and Jin Hua Ke faces up to four years in state prison and up to $16,000 in fines.

"It's inconceivable that these defendants would sell seafood that was so unfit for human consumption and think they could get away with it. My office, in conjunction with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, was able to shut down this dangerous operation and prevent any addition risk to the public’s health," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "We will continue to pursue cases where individuals advance their own greed above the law and the health of the public."

The criminal complaint further alleges that Jin Hua Ke frequently purchased fresh water clams to sell at the New Lin Sichuan Fish Market, obtained and offered grossly contaminated clams for sale to the public in New York City. On several occasions at New Lin Sichuan Fish Market, environmental conservation police officers observed hundreds of pounds of these fresh water clams being sold in plastic buckets for $1.99 per pound. A total of almost 5,000 pounds of these clams were recovered from 30 Market Street when the investigation initiated, most of which were being stored on the floor in large, porous building supply bags.

In violation of New York State laws and regulations concerning the proper storage and sale of seafood, these clams were not refrigerated or stored in proper containers, nor did they have any of the legally required tags or labels (which are required to list, among other items, the harvester's name, and the date and location the shellfish were taken or harvested).

According to the complaint, the defendant Jin Hua Ke, along with two of her employees were observed obtaining a portion of fresh water clams from the luggage compartment of a passenger bus. The defendant was waiting for the bus as it arrived in Chinatown and she organized the offloading of hundreds of pounds of clams in large building supply bags that had been transported in the luggage hold of the bus. These clams were once again being transported and stored in porous, burlap bags identical to the ones observed by DEC officers during a previous shipment. Environmental Conservation officers recovered a bucket of these untagged, unlabelled clams from the New Lin Sichuan Fish Market later in the day.

"The intent of the New York State's shellfish laws is to protect the public from consuming contaminated shellfish," Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said. "Yesterday's arrest will hopefully put an end to this ongoing criminal enterprise that places personal profit over the health and safety of the public at large. This case is a culmination of an ongoing cooperative investigation between DEC's Division of Law Enforcement and the Attorney General office."

The charges in the criminal complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The investigation was conducted by Police Officer Brent Wilson of the New York State Environmental Conservation Police, under the supervision of Captain Cisco Lopez of Conservation Police Region 2 in New York City. The Attorney General thanked Commissioner Joe Martens and his staff for their assistance with this case.

The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jason P. Garelick of the Environmental Crimes Unit, under the supervision of Criminal Prosecutions Bureau Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton, Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Nancy Hoppock.