January 18, 2012
On March 14, 2011, a federal Indictment filed in the Southern District of Ohio charged
- Steve T. Kinder, 51, and Kinder Caviar Inc. with illegally harvesting paddlefish from Ohio waters and falsely reporting to the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources that he caught the fish in Kentucky; and
- Cornelia Joyce Kinder, 53, as well as Kinder Caviar Inc. and Black Star Caviar Company with providing false information about the paddlefish eggs to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in order to obtain permits to export the paddlefish eggs to foreign customers, including
- the amount of paddlefish eggs to be exported,
- the names of the fishermen that harvested the paddlefish, and
- the location where the paddlefish were harvested.
The Kinders, husband and wife, both owned and operated Kinder Caviar and Black Star Caviar. Those companies were in the business of exporting paddlefish eggs as caviar to customers in foreign countries. The alleged violations occurred between March 2006 and December 2010.
If convicted, the Kinders face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both on each count. The companies could be fined up to $500,000 per count.
NOTE: The charges contained in the indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.
SIDE BAR: The American paddlefish (Polydon spathula), also called the Mississippi paddlefish or the spoonbill is a freshwater fish that is primarily found in the Mississippi River drainage system. Paddlefish eggs are marketed as caviar. Paddlefish were once common in waters throughout the Midwest. However, the global decline in other caviar sources, such as sturgeon, has led to an increased demand for paddlefish caviar, which has resulted in over-fishing and, as a consequence, the decline of the paddlefish population.
Paddlefish are protected by both federal and Ohio law. It is illegal to harvest paddlefish in Ohio waters, but they can be harvested legally in Kentucky waters.
Notwithstanding the above criminal allegations, the State of Kentucky's Department of Agriculture maintains a webpage touting Kinder Caviar. We are advised that:
Caspian Sea style caviar made right here in the Bluegrass! American caviar now comparable to the caviars of the Caspian Sea!
[A]s the catch and quotas of Caspian Sea caviar continue to decline, prices will steadily increase. Kinder Caviar is fast becoming the choice for the caviar savvy connoisseur. . .
Also, if you visit http://Kentucky.gov, you will learn that in October 2008, Kentucky Governor Steven L. Beshear (D)appointed five members to the state's Aquaculture Task Force. The official announcement lists among those appointees:
Joyce Kinder, of Perry Park, is the owner of Kinder Caviar, Inc. She represents wholesalers of aquaculture products.
In the October 2008 edition of the Legislative Record the following is noted under the heading: INTERIM JOINT COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES / Minutes of the 4th Meeting of the 2008 Interim /September 12, 2008:
Finally, Representative McKee noted that Ms. Joyce Kinder, of Kinder Caviar, Inc.; had signed up to speak to the committee to address concerns regarding some paddlefish administrative regulations. Ms. Kinder agreed that regulations are necessary but would like to see some provisions amended. She specifically noted the revocation of a fisherman's license or permit could occur even though water boundaries were inaccurate because of GPS positioning. She stated they feel that license revocation is extremely harsh. She also noted that they could not agree upon snagging methods. She said that under the current regulation all snagging methods must stop. Finally, Ms. Kinder noted disagreement with the size limit, noting that they do not want to hold up the process but would like the committee to take a further look at the regulation. . .
Ain't it grand? The world is beset by terrorism, civil war, earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear catastrophe but we still have time to go after alleged caviar bandits in the murky waters of Ohio and Kentucky. Where's Neil Diamond when we need him? Perhaps he could pen Kentucky Caviar as his next hit?
Neil, call me. Let's chat. Do lunch. I'll bring the caviar.
On January 17, 2012, Steven and Cornelia Joyce Kinder, and their caviar companies pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio to trafficking in and falsely labeling illegally harvested paddlefish.
According to the plea agreement Cornelia Joyce Kinder admitted to making false statements in CITES Export Registration Forms for paddlefish eggs on behalf of:
- Kinder Caviar: on or about March 15, 2007, she misrepresented the amount of legally-harvested paddlefish eggs that she could provide documentation for, as well as misidentified the fishermen who harvested the paddlefish and the location of harvest; and
- Black Star Caviar Company: on or about Dec. 18, 2010, she completed the form using the name of a subordinate employee and forged that employee's signature on the form in order to give the impression that she was not the applicant.
According to the plea agreement, both Steve Kinder and Cornelia Joyce Kinder admitted to aiding and abetting one another in harvesting paddlefish that they should have known were harvested in Ohio waters in violation of Ohio law through the use of gill nets attached to the Ohio shoreline, on or about May 5, 2007, and, thereafter, transporting the paddlefish to Kentucky with the intent to sell them when.
As part of a plea agreement, both Kinder Caviar and Black Star Caviar Company have each agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and serve a three-year term of probation, during which time those companies will be prohibited from applying for or receiving a CITES Export Permit.
Additionally, Steve and Cornelia Joyce Kinder have agreed to serve a three-year term of probation, during which time they will each perform 100 hours of community service, be prohibited from fishing anywhere in the Ohio River where that river forms the border between Ohio and Kentucky, and be prohibited from applying for or receiving a CITES Export Permit, either on behalf of themselves or anyone else. In accordance with Kentucky law, the Kinders face possible suspension of their Kentucky commercial fishing licenses.
Finally, as part of the plea agreement, the boat and truck that were used in furtherance of the Lacey Act crimes have been forfeited.