Customs: Fish Eggs Were Ill-Gotten By Caviar Expert, Dealer
MIAMI (AP) _ A renowned caviar expert and a Miami roe dealer are accused of importing $1 million worth of Iranian caviar in violation of a presidential trade embargo with that Middle Eastern nation.
George Stein, 49, a wholesaler and author of ″Caviar 3/8 Caviar 3/8 Caviar 3/8″ and Patrick Bachelier, 32, a caviar dealer, are charged with violating the Oct. 29, 1987, ban on Iranian imports, said U.S. Customs spokesman Michael Sheehan.
″I’m innocent,″ Bachelier told The Associated Press Wednesday. ″It’s a mistake.″ Telephone calls to Stein’s wholesale company went unanswered.
If convicted as charged, the two could face up to 16 years in prison and $150,000 in fines, Sheehan said when the agency announced its case Wednesday.
The fish-egg probe began last December when customs officials received a tip about illegal Iranian caviar, Sheehan said. Customs agents believe that Bachelier sent Iranian caviar to Europe, where the shipments were disguised as Soviet caviar and then flown to Miami.
″The caviar was in fact falsely labeled in Western Europe in order to circumvent the embargo,″ Sheehan said.
″After the cavier was released by customs, Bachelier would transfer the caviar into Iranian tins, which he had imported separately,″ said Sheehan.
Customs agents followed a one-ton shipment from Miami to New York before search warrants were served March 15, Sheehan said.
The search netted 1,400 pounds of caviar worth $400,000 at Caspian Caviar Co., 1,000 pounds of caviar worth $400,000 at Stein’s firm, Iron Gate Caviar Co., and 1,000 pounds of caviar worth $200,000 at Epicurean International Inc., a Rockville, Md., company, Sheehan said.
Stein is scheduled for an appearance at federal court in Miami April 5 and Bachelier was arraigned March 16. The seized caviar is on ice as evidence.
Bachelier said he imported some Iranian caviar under a permit issued to a person he declined to identify. The rest of the caviar was genuine Russian caviar, he said.
″I feel like I’m being treated unfairly,″ he said. ″I’m innocent. I have nothing to fear.″