Lynnwood fish poacher sentenced

EVERETT — A Lynnwood man accused of illegally selling caviar, steelhead and salmon must pay a $7,500 fine and serve a month on work release.

Igor Vladimir Stepchuk began his jail sentence late last month after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree unlawful trafficking in fish.

Meanwhile, Oleg Morozov, who is believed to be his partner in the illegal fish sales, is scheduled to plead guilty later this week.

A 2011 undercover operation in Snohomish County by state fish and wildlife agents tied the men to an international fish-poaching ring operating in several other states.

Authorities alleged that Stepchuk, 39, sold five jars of American paddlefish eggs to an undercover agent for $500. He also was accused of illegally selling steelhead, coho and chinook salmon.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife began investigating Stepchuk after receiving a tip about the illegal caviar. The agent met with Stepchuk numerous times. The convicted felon eventually offered to sell the agent steelhead, saying he had poached about 100 pounds. It isn’t clear where he caught them. He showed the agent a freezer full of fish.

Nontribal fishermen are banned from selling steelhead. Commercial and recreational salmon fishing also is closely regulated.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley

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