Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Psychiatrist faces charges in alleged bear gallbladder trafficking

A Japanese psychiatrist with a home in Seattle is facing poaching and gun-possession charges following allegations that he poached several black bears and tried to smuggle gallbladders back to Japan. In charging documents filed in King County Superior Court, prosecutors contend Dr. Tohru Shigemura made repeated trips to Washington to hunt bear, taking animals out of season and on tribal lands. Shigemura, prosecutors claim, also amassed a collection of 11 firearms without the appropriate permits.

Writing to the court, state Fish and Wildlife Department Detective Todd Vandivert said authorities first learned of Shigemura in April 2007. Believing Shigemura was hunting illegally, smuggling wildlife parts and trafficking in bear gallbladders, wildlife agents launched an undercover investigation into the psychiatrist's activities. Visiting the state from Japan, Shigemura had been buying Washington hunting licenses and tags for years, Vandivert said. He also acquired firearms, the detective said, by falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen.

Based on those allegations, investigators placed a GPS tracker on Shigemura's vehicle in early 2008 and found he'd traveled to a sporting goods dealer in Fife. Examining the store's records, Vandivert said investigators found Shigemura had bought a 12- gauge shotgun. Additionally, investigators found Shigemura had bought a "bear call w/cassette" and shotgun ammunition. Convinced Shigemura was attempting to smuggle bear gallbladder -- a prized aphrodisiac sold at premium prices -- wildlife agents conducted an undercover contact with the 71-year-old at Sea-Tac International Airport in July 2008. According to the Humane Society of the United States, an average size bear gallbladder can be sold for as much as $3,400 in Asia. Used in traditional medicine, the organ is believed by some to have a variety of medicinal properties and is sometimes sold as a sexual stimulant.



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Who am I?

I am a law enforcement professional with over 35 years experience in both sworn and civilian positions. I have service in 3 different countries in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

My principal areas of expertise are: (1) Intelligence, (2) Training and Development, (3) Knowledge Management, and (4) Administration/Supervision.

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