The Man vs. Moon: As a local Moonie preacher is sentenced, evidence implicates the church's supreme leader in a shark-poaching scheme.
Federal prosecutors scored a coup last week when Reverend Kevin Thompson, Bay Area leader for the Unification Church — aka the Moonies — was sentenced to one year behind bars for running the world's largest baby-leopard-shark poaching ring. But previously undisclosed evidence suggests that the conservative newspaper publisher and church supreme leader Reverend Sun Myung Moon both knew of and encouraged Thompson's illegal operation.
Moon's complicity, or lack thereof, has been the nagging question since the US Attorney's Office in Oakland indicted Thompson on felony charges a year ago (see "The Moonies and the Sharks," Feature, 7/12/06).
Thompson's guilt was never in doubt. The pastor of the Bay Area Family Church in San Leandro confessed to investigators almost immediately after he was caught, telling them that he and a few of his congregants had been hauling baby leopard sharks out of San Francisco Bay for more than fifteen years. Pet dealers from around the world paid handsomely for the beautiful and exotic fish and sold them to people for their home aquariums. One of Thompson's followers estimated they had hooked more than six thousand shark pups in all; the feds pegged the street value of the local church's operation at $1.2 million.
From the get-go, however, Special Agent Roy Torres of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uncovered evidence that the shark ring extended beyond Thompson. Among his more telling discoveries was the close tie between the pastor and True World Foods, the nation's largest supplier of sushi-grade fish. Moon's followers launched True World in the 1980s after the church leader issued a series of lectures, extolling the virtues of fishing. While Moon's followers call him "True Father," he calls himself "King of the Ocean."