Columbus man charged with fish trafficking sentenced to probation
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) – We have new details in a case involving a Columbus businessman charged with fish trafficking in Mobile, Alabama.
News Leader 9 has obtained court documents detailing the local grocery store owner’s arrest and how he avoided jail time.
Cuong Duc Bui – who also goes by the name Steve – owned a grocery store in Columbus when authorities said he illegally trafficked some of the fish he sold across state lines . The court documents I have here explain why Bui can no longer work in the seafood industry.
In 2018, Cuong Duc Bui owned the S Mart grocery store on the highway from Manchester to Columbus…selling various items including seafood. But officials say Bui did not have a license to run the store. business and illegally obtained some of the fish sold in his store.
Over a period of four months, Bui also admitted to avoiding fish health and safety inspections.
In June, Bui pleaded guilty to fish trafficking charges by admitting to smuggling $14,000 worth of red snapper from a person posing as a fisherman in Mobile.
“The illicit fish was approximately 2,250 pounds of red snapper and 150 pounds of king mackerel,” said Christopher Ekman, chief deputy clerk of the U.S. District Court, Alabama Southern.
Court documents say that after loading her van with the fish in southern Alabama, she was driven back to Bui’s store in Columbus. This violated Alabama’s “Lacey Act,” a federal wildlife law that prohibits anyone from transporting or selling any wild animal illegally taken, transported, or obtained. He also violated another Alabama law requiring any vehicle involved in purchasing seafood to hold a state seafood license.
But Bui avoided jail, being sentenced to five years probation by a federal judge on Friday.
“He has also been restricted, banned from employment or ownership in the seafood industry,” Ekman said.
United States District Court Judge Terry Moorer also imposed a $25,000 fine, a $200 special assessment fee, and required Bui to complete 300 hours of community service. His probation also includes specific rules.
“One of them being a prohibition on possession of 10 pounds or more of seafood,” Ekman said.
Bui is also prohibited from selling seafood apart from live crayfish and crabs.
According to our sister station, WALA in Mobile, Bui’s attorney says he no longer owns the S Mart grocery store in Columbus, which has been permanently closed.
Copyright 2022 WTVM. All rights reserved.