A 48-year-old Idaho man accused of illegally purchasing wildlife carcasses and parts from an undercover game warden will plead guilty to two felonies later this month in Beaverhead County under an agreement with state prosecutors.
Yan “Bo” Fong of Pocatello was charged late last year with three felony counts of unlawful sale of a game animal and three felony counts of unlawful possession, shipping or transportation of a game animal or fur bearing animal. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges on Nov. 24 and was released on $15,000 bond.
Prosecutors from the Montana Department of Justice allege that twice in 2017 and once in 2018 Fong met an undercover game warden near Dillon and purchased wildlife parts that were presented as illegally obtained. The list included bear gallbladders, paws and carcasses, multiple mountain lion and bobcat carcasses and an elk and two mule deer carcasses. Payments totaled $3,800, according to charging documents.
Bear gallbladders can be worth thousands of dollars in Asia, where they are used in traditional medicines. Their sale is illegal in Montana. Bear paws are also considered an edible delicacy, and demand for bear paws and gallbladders has led to a number of prosecutions nationally for illegally killing bears and trafficking in their parts.
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Idaho Game and Fish contacted Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to relay Fong’s reported interest in purchasing mountain lions, bobcats, bears and bear gallbladders. Descriptions of surveillance audio of the meetings portray Fong being told that the animals were not legally hunted nor tagged and that sale of the animals and parts is illegal.
When asked what he does with the meat, Fong, who at the time owned the Bamboo Garden restaurant in Pocatello, reportedly said he offers the bear and mountain lion meat free to “the tour guide and bus people,” and that “Chinese people like the animal meat.” Charging documents do not say if those statements were substantiated by authorities.
The restaurant has since closed.
Under a plea agreement signed in October, Fong will plead guilty to one count of unlawful sale of a game animal and one count of unlawful possession of a game animal with other charges dismissed. As part of the agreement, prosecutors will request a sentence totaling five years in prison and a fine of $15,000. Fong would be eligible for parole after one year. He would also lose his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for six years.
Fong’s attorney Brent Flowers declined to comment, citing the upcoming hearing.
In addition to the case in Montana, Fong is also facing charges for wildlife-related crimes in California and Idaho.
Fong is part of a 19-count indictment in California which includes four felonies and 15 misdemeanors. The indictment includes a co-defendant identified as 54-year-old Rui Neg Zhao on one felony and one misdemeanor charge.
California prosecutors allege that on three dates in 2019 Fong purchased, possessed, sold or imported wildlife parts or meat illegally. The list includes bear gallbladders and paws, fish, waterfowl, mountain lions and ivory.
Fong and Zhao have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In Idaho, Fong is facing 75 misdemeanor charges stemming from two dates in 2019. Ten of the charges are under failing to obtain a taxidermist or furbuyer’s license statutes while the remaining 65 charges fall under illegal possession, transport or shipment of wildlife or wildlife parts statutes.
The Idaho State Journal reported Wednesday that the charges stem from search warrants served by Idaho law enforcement that seized a total of 25 bear gallbladders and other unidentified wildlife parts.
Fong has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Tom Kuglin is the deputy editor for the Lee Newspapers State Bureau. His coverage focuses on outdoors, recreation and natural resources.