Queens man, Chee Chaw, busted for allegedly smuggling 'lucky' bony-tongued Arowana fish into U.S.
Wednesday, December 23rd 2009, 4:00 AM
The supposed good luck powers of the bony-tongued Arowana fish didn't work for a Queens man who was charged with smuggling the creatures into New York in his suitcase.
Authorities say Chaw, 47, bought the fish - which fetch thousands of dollars on the black market - while visiting relatives.
A routine check of the bag revealed the unusual contents - and the feds dispatched a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent dressed up like a UPS worker to Chaw's house.
After Chaw confirmed the bag was his, Agent Paul Chapelle told him the fish found inside cannot be imported without a permit.
"Chaw stated that he thought it was 'bull----' that the fish are protected by the government when 'there are thousands of them,'" Chapelle noted in the arrest warrant.
"Chaw stated that he is a lover of fish, brought the fish into the United States for personal use, and did not plan to sell them."
Sources said that Arowanas - belligerent fish that resemble a dragon in flight - sell for $5,000 to $8,000 in Chinatown and predominantly Asian neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn.
Fans believe the metallic-looking creature "brings instant wealth to those who have him close by," said expert Lillian Too.
Agents recovered four more Arowanas during a search of the alleged smuggler's home. Several of the original 16 died in federal custody.
After an investigation, Chaw was arrested Tuesday and released on a $100,000 bond signed by his boss at Great Eastern Energy, a natural gas supplier in Brooklyn, where he works as a salesman.
He faces up to 33 months in prison. He was arrested once before for smuggling the same fish and paid an $850 fine, said his lawyer, Deron Castro.