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Burien, Washington, seafood broker sentenced for illegally shipping potentially tainted clams | USAO-WDWA

Seattle – A Burien, Washington, seafood broker was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 90 days in prison, and three years of supervised release, for smuggling goods from the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Jeffrey Hallin Olsen, 52, owner of Absolute Seafoods LLC, falsified documents and lied to authorities about disposing of 46 cases of potentially tainted geoduck from Alaska.  U.S District Judge John C. Coughenour sentenced Olsen’s company, Absolute Seafoods LLC, to probation and was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine. 

“Mr. Olson chose to gamble with the lives of customers across the globe – putting them at risk of shellfish poisoning,” said U.S. Attorney Brown. “We’ll likely never know if any of the Chinese customers became ill from these clams, but a prison sentence is justified by the danger of his conduct and his repeated lies to authorities, claiming he had destroyed the potentially harmful geoduck.”

According to records filed in the case, on February 20 or 21, 2019, Olsen purchased 2,500 pounds of geoduck from various Alaska divers.  The geoduck were mixed together in crates for shipping, and were picked up at Sea-Tac Airport, to be trucked to Vancouver B.C and shipped to Hong Kong.  Olsen produced a U.S. Department of Commerce Export Health Certificate stating that the geoduck met health requirements.

One day after the purchase, but before the geoduck were exported, one of the divers notified Alaska state officials that he had mistakenly harvested his geoduck from an area that had not been approved for harvest.   The area had not been tested for the toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, which has been a recurring problem in Alaskan waters.  An Alaska Wildlife Trooper notified Olsen that he needed to destroy the shipment as it was unsafe to consume.  Olsen told the trooper he would destroy the geoduck.

Instead of destroying the geoduck, Olsen illegally shipped most of the geoduck to Hong Kong for human consumption.  Olsen shipped an additional 10 cases of potentially tainted geoduck to a buyer in Oakland, California.  Olsen prepared false shipping paperwork that falsely identified the contents of the crates as “fresh Yelloweye.”

Olsen falsely told Alaskan officials that he had destroyed the geoduck and provided them with a bill from the King County garbage transfer station as proof the geoduck had been destroyed.  However, investigators reviewed surveillance video from the transfer station showing that at the time of the receipt, Olsen only disposed of a small amount of household waste.  Investigators also retrieved video showing Olsen personally delivering the crates for shipment to Oakland. 

The case was investigated by NOAA Fisheries Enforcement, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police and the Alaska Department of Public Safety, with assistance from the California Department of Fish and Game, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans – Canada. 

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson.

 

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