BOSTON – A former Maine resident was sentenced yesterday for violating federal wildlife protection laws which prohibit the illegal purchase and transportation of wildlife.
Senior U.S. District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf sentenced Eric Zeng, 49, to two years of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $5,000. In addition, the court ordered the forfeiture of Zeng’s vehicle. In October 2013, Zeng pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife protection statute which prohibits, among other things, the interstate purchase, sale and transportation of wildlife which was obtained in violation of federal, state or local law.
“Protecting the wildlife of our region is critical to ensuring the security of our precious environment,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “It is our duty to prosecute individuals who senselessly exploit and traffic wildlife, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to prevent these crimes.”
At the time of the offenses, Zeng was living in Presque Isle, Maine where he owned and operated a restaurant. He was actively engaged in the illegal purchase and sale of bear and deer parts in Maine, and continued the illegal trafficking by completing two purchases in Massachusetts.
On two occasions, Zeng bought what he was told were illegally obtained wildlife parts, specifically, black bear gall bladders and bear paws. He then traveled to Massachusetts to complete the purchase. After reviewing the items and paying in cash, Zeng transported them to locations in Connecticut where he sold them to third parties. Zeng drove a Cadillac Escalade, valued at $70,000, to both meetings and, as a result, the vehicle was subsequently seized by law enforcement and was forfeited as part of the sentence.
“We attribute the success of this case to the excellent working relationship we have with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our counterparts in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office of Law Enforcement,” said Colonel Joel Wilkinson of the Maine Warden Service.
“This sentence represents the gravity of such crimes committed against our wildlife, conservation and the hunting heritage,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region Special Agent in Charge Honora Gordon. “The case is another fine example of how our partnership with the Maine Warden Service and the Boston U.S. Attorney's Office is crucial in protecting black bears and other North American species from commercial exploitation."
U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Colonel Joel Wilkinson of the Maine Warden Service; and Honora Gordon, SAC of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the announcement today. The investigation leading to Zeng’s arrest was a joint effort between the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Warden Service, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. The case was prosecuted by Nadine Pellegrini of Ortiz’s Major Crimes Unit.