Unification Church tied to illegal shark selling business

News Summary/September 10, 2015

By Rick Alan Ross

The head pastor of the Unification Church in San Francisco, Reverend Kevin Thompson, was busted for illegal shark fishing. "We'd catch these sharks," Thompson told the East Bay Express.

Fishing for converts was Thompson's job at the controversial church founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, which has often been called a "cult." But Rev. Thompson apparently found that hooking Leopard sharks was easier and a profitable business. Thompson and his church followers illegally harvested Leopard shark from San Francisco Bay. One follower told authorities he caught 202 in a single day.

Financial records obtained by federal investigators showed that Thompson paid his devoted fishermen $2 to $3 per pup and then sold the sharks to dealers for $20 to $35 each.

Thompson found out that Leopard sharks, often called tiger or cat sharks, was a good cash crop and that baby sharks sold particularly well on the black market.  In ten years Thompson and his band of Unification Church members, often called "Moonies," managed to catch more than 6,000 Leopard sharks and rake in more than $1.2 million. Law enforcement authorities said they were the biggest Leopard shark poaching ring ever busted. Thompson was indicted for his crimes along with two of his followers.

Thompson called his illegal business "Ocean Church" and reportedly it "clearly enjoyed the blessing of his superiors" in the Unification Church, led by self-proclaimed Messiah and businessman Rev. Sun Myung Moon (now deceased), who once claimed he was "King of the Ocean." Moon used his followers to carve out a business empire in the US domestic fishing industry and more specifically in the sushi business. Moon related fishing businesses currently supply thousands of sushi restaurants across the United States.

Moon's fishing empire fueled his other interests such as The Washington Times newspaper, which has lost money for many years and seems to be nearing collapse after selling off much of its assets. The conservative publication promoted Moon personally and also his politics and social views. Moon was a staunch supporter of Richard Nixon and once called gays "dung-eating dogs." He also funded anti-abortion groups and encouraged chastity through his so-called "Pure Love Alliance." Moon preached that only married people could enter heaven so he performed mass weddings marrying thousands of his devotees at various staged events that often drew media attention.

In San Francisco the Unification Church often used front organizational names to disguise itself while targeting college students in recruitment efforts. The church often used the name CARP (Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles), at UC Berkley. The Unification Church continues to recruit on campuses and most recently has been active on the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia using the name "Lovin Life Ministries." Historically, families have claimed loved ones were "brainwashed" by the Unification Church and some hired cult deprogrammers to intervene and rescue them from Moon's control. Marin County attorney Ford Greene, once a Moonie himself, helped to deprogram more than 130 members of the Unification Church and later battled Moon in court representing former members that sued the church.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, Moon bragged about his plan to dominate the US fishing industry. Moon used the low cost labor of his followers to build and operate a vast fishing fleet and related business infrastructure at locations within Hawaii, Alaska, Louisiana and Massachusetts. Moon's fishing empire is run through True World Foods. The New Jersey company is also involved in the US shrimp and lobster business and maintains warehouses across the United States. True World reportedly generated $250 million in revenues in 2005.

The name True World was derived from the Unification Church belief that Rev. Sun Myung Moon was the "True Father" and his widow is the "True Mother" of humanity. The Moons are also supposedly the "True Family." However, former family member Nansook Hong expose a less than ideal family values in her tell-all book "In the Shadow of the Moons."

As Rev. Moon's wealth grew through his fishing empire and other business interests so did his political influence. Former President George H.W. Bush was paid to speak at Moon related events in Japan. Moon's Washington Times Foundation also funneled more than $2 million into George H. W. Bush's presidential library in Texas. In 2004 a group of US congressmen and senators attended an event at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington DC to crown Moon "The King of Peace."

Special Agent Roy Torres of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement in Pacific Grove was responsible for the investigation into the illegal shark fishing enterprise of Reverend Kevin Thompson. The federal Lacey Act prohibits the possession or sale of wildlife in violation of any state or foreign law. In January of 2006 a federal grand Jury in Oakland indicted Thompson.

Authorities learned that Thompson stored fishing poles, line, hooks, bait and shark boats, at a sushi warehouse owned by True World Foods. It was also disclosed that baby leopard sharks were kept on the True World property.

Did Moon know that Thompson was breaking the law to make money through illegal fishing?

Not quite a good example of law abiding morality himself Rev. Sun Myung Moon was convicted of tax fraud in the 1980s and served prison time.

Two former members of the Unification Church and a private investigator who tracks Moon owned businesses insinuated that high ranking officials of the church and even Moon himself may have known about Thompson's shark business. "Local reverends rarely operate independently from the church hierarchy," said former 20-year church member Louis Desloge. Private investigator Larry Zilliox told the East Bay Express that he identified more than 2,000 Moon-linked businesses. "I would think a number of people above the local level would have known about the shark ring," Ziliox said. Marin attorney Ford Greene told a reporter, "You don't do anything in that organization without the okay from your superiors. You don't fart without permission."

Note: This news summary is based upon the article "The Moonies and the Sharks: How a Unification Church pastor went fishing for converts and snagged an indictment as America's most prolific poacher of baby leopard sharks" by Robert Gammon published July 13, 2006 by the East Bay Express.

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