The Cairnlea ringleader of an illegal abalone syndicate was sentenced to almost three years’ jail last Tuesday.

A Fisheries Victoria statement said Van Nguyen, 54, was also banned indefinitely from all fishing, ordered to pay $21,000 (the proceeds of crime), and forfeit his car and diving gear.

The County Court heard last week Nguyen had a history of fishing offences dating back to 2000.

He pleaded guilty to trafficking commercial quantities of abalone and selling seafood without authorisation.

Nguyen was caught as part of a 10-month investigation, Operation Quantum, during which he was seen diving for abalone, rock lobster and turbos, before selling them.

His sentence follows the jailing of fellow ringleader, 41-year-old St Albans mother of two Phong Hoai Thuy Nguyen, for almost two years in February.

Star Weekly reported in January that 10 Brimbank divers had been found guilty of taking abalone and other seafood from the south-west coast of Victoria several times a week.

The fish were on-sold to the two ringleaders.

Judge Sue Pullen said Nguyen’s offending was very serious and potentially threatened the health of consumers, which warranted a significant jail term.

Fisheries Victoria said Nguyen had been “masquerading as a recreational diver and benefiting financially”.

He was jailed for two years and eight months and will be eligible for parole in 16 months.