Three Colorado men have plead guilty in federal court to illegally trafficking in paddlefish caviar in a scheme centered around the Roadhouse area of Warsaw, Mo.

Three Colorado men have plead guilty in federal court to illegally trafficking in paddlefish caviar in a scheme centered around the Roadhouse area of Warsaw, Mo.
Arkadiy Lvovskiy, 54, of Aurora, Colo., and Dmitri Elitchev, 49, of Centennial, Colo., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matt J. Whitworth to participating in a conspiracy to illegally traffic in paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act. Artour Magdessian, 48, of Lone Tree, Colo., pleaded guilty to trafficking in paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act.
The three men were arrested in an undercover operation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation, according to a press release from the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. The retail value of the paddlefish caviar at issue in this case is estimated to be between $30,000 and $50,000.
"Operation Roadhouse" focused on an area around Warsaw known as the Roadhouse, the press release states. As part of the covert operation, state and federal officers operated a paddlefish snagging business. Covert officers also sold paddlefish to people who were interested in buying them.
By pleading guilty July 13, Lvovskiy and Elitchev admitted that in April 2011 they traveled to Warsaw, where they illegally purchased five female paddlefish and a container of paddlefish eggs. They processed the eggs from all of those paddlefish into caviar and transported them from Missouri to Colorado. Lvovskiy and Elitchev also admitted that they returned to Warsaw in March 2012 and purchased eight more female paddlefish. As they had in 2011, they processed the eggs into caviar and transported them from Missouri to Colorado.
Lvovskiy, Elitchev and Magdessian admitted that they traveled to Warsaw in April 2012 with co-defendant Felix Baravik, 50, of Aurora, Colo. While in Warsaw, the men befriended covert Fish and Wildlife Service agents who were posing as fishermen staying in the same area. The defendants purchased two female paddlefish from the covert agents. The defendants also purchased three more female paddlefish from other sources and harvested paddlefish in excess of the Missouri take and possession limits. The defendants processed the eggs from all of those paddlefish into caviar and transported them from Missouri to Colorado.
Baravik pleaded guilty on Aug. 19, 2014, to illegally trafficking in paddlefish in violation of the Lacey Act.
Under federal statutes, Lvovskiy, Elitchev and Magdessian are each subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000, according to the U.S. Attorney press release. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of pre-sentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
“Federal law protects our natural resources, such as Missouri’s paddlefish, which have been over-fished until their population has suffered a steep decline,” U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said. “We take seriously the environmental protections provided by federal and state laws, and will investigate and prosecute those who violate them.”
The Lacey Act is a federal statute which makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase fish that were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any state, or to attempt to do so.
Such conduct constitutes a felony crime if the defendant knowingly engaged in conduct involving the purchase or sale, offer to purchase or sell, or intent to purchase or sell, fish with a market value in excess of $350, knowing that the fish were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of, or in a manner unlawful under, a law or regulation of any state.
“The American paddlefish is an important cultural and sport-fishing resource to the people of Missouri. This investigation reaffirms our commitment to work with our state wildlife law enforcement partners to protect our nation's wildlife resources and hold violators accountable for their actions,” said Edward Grace, Deputy Chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.
“We appreciated the support and partnership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section in helping to protect Missouri’s natural resources,” added Missouri Department of Conservation Protection Chief Larry Yamnitz.