Vu Johnnie Nguyen of Virginia Beach, Virginia, plead guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Asheville, North Carolina, to federal charges for unlawfully trafficking in American black bear gall bladders and other American black bear parts, according to officials.
A year-long investigation concluded that Nguyen unlawfully purchased and sold American black bear parts from North Carolina.
Bear gall bladders and paws are often used in Asian traditional medicine markets
According to court documents, Nguyen illegally bought and with the intent to sell 18 American black bear gall bladders, 16 American black bear claws, two American black bear paws and approximately 50 pounds of American black bear meat in 2014.
Nguyen further admitted that on three separate occasions—Jan. 6, 2014, March 5, 2014, and Dec. 17, 2014—he took black bear parts.
Nguyen is facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of the agreement, he has agreed to publish a statement apologizing for his illegal conduct.
“The American Black Bear is a beautiful sight to behold by hikers and campers in the Blue Ridge Mountains and elsewhere in North America, and we will not allow their parts, such as gall bladders, to be taken and sold,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Black bears are a protected species under both U.S. and North Carolina laws and we will prosecute those who attempt to deal illegally in their parts.”
“Nguyen repeatedly engaged in the illegal trafficking of American black bear gall bladders and other parts, a crime that is both reprehensible and a violation of federal and state laws,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Jill Westmoreland Rose. “The abundance of American black bears in western North Carolina mountains often attracts the attention of traffickers looking for a steady source of supply of bear parts to satisfy the ever growing demand in domestic and foreign black markets. Nguyen’s prosecution speaks to our commitment to protect our wildlife resources and to apply stringent punishment to those who ignore the law for profit.”
Nguyen plead guilty to violating the Lacey Act, a felony.
The Lacey Act is the federal law that makes it illegal to transport or sell wildlife.