Black Market Caviar Ring Busted in Missouri; Investigation Snags 100+ Poachers
A two-year investigation into illegal fishing and harvesting of paddlefish eggs in southwestern Missouri ended this week with citations and charges filed against more than 100 people. The suspects include eight men who face federal charges in connection with their alleged efforts to transport paddlefish "caviar" out of Missouri in violation of state and U.S. laws.
Mo. Dept. of Conservation Paddlefish caught during the undercover investigation.
Authorities say tipsters first alerted them to suspicious activity along the Osage River near the town of Warsaw, known as the "Paddlefish Capital of the World."
Seven of the eight men facing federal charges reside out of state. They include five men from the Denver area of Colorado: Arkadiy Lvovskiy, Dmitri Elitchev, Artour Magdessian, Felix Baravik and Andrew Praskovsky (the latter of whom was caught trying to export paddlefish caviar overseas). The two other out-of-state suspects are Petr Babenko of New Jersey and Fedor Pakhnyuk of Chicago. Pakhnyuk stands accused of attempting to form an enterprise with other individuals who would market processed paddlefish caviar at markets in Chicago.
The eighth federal suspect, Bogdan Nahapetyan, lives at the Lake of the Ozarks. Court records reveal that he pleaded guilty of violating Missouri wildlife codes in 2009.
Black-market caviar and a bunch of guys with Eastern European names. Has the Russian mafia found its way to the Ozarks?