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New Jersey man convicted of trafficking in paddlefish in Missouri

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri — A 45-year-old New Jersey man has been convicted of violating federal law by trafficking in Missouri paddlefish.

Federal prosecutors in Kansas City said Petr Babenko of Vineland, New Jersey, was found guilty Wednesday of illegally trafficking in paddlefish and of participating in a conspiracy to illegally buy and sell paddlefish.

Babenko was arrested in 2013 when federal and state authorities conducted an undercover investigation as part of paddlefish conservation efforts. The decline in other caviar sources has led to an increased demand for paddlefish caviar, which has spurred a paddlefish population decline.

Prosecutors say the retail value of the caviar Babenko and another defendant had is estimated to be between $30,000 and $50,000.

Babenko faces up to 10 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000.

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