Illegal Importation Of Protected Species


Illegal Importation of Protected Species

United States v. Nathaniel Swanson (W.D. Wash.): On January 24 and 17, 2014, Cheuk Yin Ko, Nathaniel Swanson, and Tak Ming Tsang were sentenced after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to smuggle various turtle and reptile species from the United States. Working with two foreign nationals residing in the United States, including Tsang, Swanson illegally exported species including Eastern box turtles, North American wood turtles, and ornate box turtles to buyers located in Hong Kong. Swanson also was involved in importing several protected species from Hong Kong, including black-breasted leaf turtles, Chinese striped-necked turtles, big-headed turtles, fly river turtles, and an Arakan forest turtle. The Arakan forest turtle is critically endangered, having once been presumed extinct. The illegal trafficking spanned approximately four years. As part of the sentencing, Ko was ordered to forfeit almost 150 reptiles, including 40 eastern box turtles, ten ball pythons, four Gila monsters, and one boa constrictor. Several others remain under indictment. Animals that survived and were seized by law enforcement have been receiving care from wildlife rehabilitation centers and local zoos. Swanson will serve one year and one day of incarceration, followed by three years’ supervised release. Tsang and Ko will serve six and five months’ incarceration, respectively. Tsang also will be subject to two years’ supervised release. All three defendants were held jointly and severally liable for $28,583 in restitution to be paid as follows: $16,029 to the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center and $12,554 to the Woodland Park Zoo.

United States v. Patty Chen (N.D. Calif., S.D. Fla.): On May 9, 2014, Patty Chen was sentenced to serve a three-year term of probation and to pay $29,760 in restitution to the Lacey Act Reward Fund after previously pleading guilty to false statement and Lacey Act violations for illegally importing wildlife products (including shark fins, shark fin noodles, sea horses, dried conch, dried fish, and eel maw) into the United States from Ecuador. These items have been valued at nearly $30,000. In November 2009 and October 2011, Chen illegally brought wildlife into the United States by falsifying customs documentation, denying that she had any wildlife in her possession.

Updated April 15, 2015

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