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FBI busts Mesa man accused of selling endangered species of fish

Posted at 6:05 PM, Oct 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-10 23:23:12-04

When the FBI stormed a Mesa home in September, neighbors in the community knew it was something serious.

"I'm glad it wasn't drugs or anything," said neighbor Nikki Ausdemore.  

No, the owner of this home was swimming in a different circle.

"We had seen the fish tanks and known about them for years so we always wondered what was going on," Ausdemore said. 

Video from that September day shows U.S Fish and Wildlife Service investigators entering and exiting the home near Dobson and Guadalupe roads garage with coolers.

FBI agents taped off the home for hours as wildlife investigators carefully removed what was behind the door. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife confirms they seized rare Arowana fish from the home. 

"We had heard that there's some smuggling of some exotic fish and that they had been smuggling them in and selling them illegally," Ausdemore said. 

The tale behind those fish is just as shocking as the crime.

Asian Arowana is an endangered but highly sought after species of fish by the rich and famous. 

"In Asia and different areas they go for roughly in the tens of thousands of dollars," Mickie Fauth with Kona Reef AZ said.

In fact, the fish that's said to bring prosperity and luck to its owner have sold for as much as $400,000. 

Gold and Red Arowana are usually the most expensive.

Believe it or not, if the fish's look isn't flawless around the eyes, owners will take mind-boggling measures to change that. 

"People will actually not only buy these expensive fish but pay for plastic surgery to get them eye lifts," Fauth said. 

Investigators with the FBI would not comment on the investigation or if the homeowner will face any charges. 

But the details behind the bust have certainly made a splash with those who watched it happen. 

"We were surprised that fish would even go for that much money," Ausdemore said. 

While we don't know what charges the man will face, if any, we do know with past incidents of this sort, perpetrators normally face a hefty fine and multiple years of probation.