VERO BEACH, Fla. - Florida Fish and Wildlife officials busted several restaurant owners and employees Thursday in a black market fish sting.
In a six-month long undercover operation, officials said dozens of employees and restaurant owners illegally purchased fish from officers posing as sellers.
Sue Liang works side-by-side with her husband at Szechuan Palace in Vero Beach and says he would never purchase fish from an unlicensed dealer.
"This was a case of mistaken identity," explained Liang.
FWC officials thought differently and cited Yang Fu Liang with one count of purchasing from an unlicensed dealer and one count of purchasing fresh water fish.
"I don't know what happened," said Liang.
Investigators say during the six-month long investigation, documented by FWC photos, undercover officers approached the owners of 44 restaurants in Brevard and Indian River counties. They offered to sell them fish and wildlife species that are not legal to buy or sell.
Owners and employees at 11 restaurants took the bait; some more than once.
That was the case with Felix Fajardo, the owner of Felix's Place in Vero Beach.
Felix pleaded guilty to four counts of purchasing from an unlicensed dealer.
FWC officials say they do these covert stings to discourage people from illegally selling and buying Florida's natural resources because it hurts commercial fishermen, their livelihood and the resource itself.