Sacramento, CA — In a busy San Francisco delicatessen that caters to Eastern European immigrants and city dwellers craving ethnic food, customers snapped up caviar for as much as $240 a pound.
Yet this caviar came not from Russia´s Caspian Sea, but from the nearby Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, where authorities say poachers illegally sold roe and flesh from rare white sturgeon, the largest freshwater fish in North America.
Trailed early Thursday by news cameras, state game wardens arrested Mark Golmyan, 54, owner of the Gastronom Russian Deli on Geary Street, along with four other San Francisco residents accused of buying the caviar for up to $140 a pound and then selling it to Bay Area residents, mostly of Russian descent.
Department of Fish and Game officials said Nikolay Krasnodemskiy, 34, prepared the caviar in two auto body shops in an industrial area north of Sacramento before sending it to San Francisco.
Krasnodemskiy was arrested at his residence in North Highlands, then taken to the shops where wardens said they found fishing poles, a scale, a fishing net, and jars to hold the fish eggs.