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Press Release

Pennsylvania Man Sentenced to Prison for Conspiracy to Smuggle Turtles out of the United States

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Louisiana

U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that JOHN TOKOSH, age 54, from Pennsylvania, was sentenced yesterday after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to smuggle turtles out of the United States and to violation of the Lacey Act, as well as using a fictitious name and address in a mailing.

U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle sentenced TOKOSH to two years in prison, followed by six years of supervised release.

According to court records, TOKOSH admitted that he was part of a group of individuals involved in capturing North American Wood turtles, which are a threatened species, from the wild in Pennsylvania, shipping the turtles by mail though the United States, and then illegally exporting the turtles to Hong Kong.  TOKOSH’s role in the conspiracy was to capture the North American Wood turtles from their native habitat in Pennsylvania, where it is illegal to hunt them, and then to ship them to a middleman in Covington, Louisiana..  TOKOSH also admitted to using the alias “Jay Rockington” in an effort to disguise that he was the source of the turtles.

“This case illustrates our commitment to fighting the illegal wildlife trade. The unlawful international trade in turtles fuels an unsustainable market that will drive our wild native species to extinction,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago.  “I’d like to commend investigators with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Homeland Security Investigations, United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Department of Justice for their dedication in this investigation.”

“The trafficking of illegal goods, whether it is guns, drugs, or in this case a threatened species of wildlife, Homeland Security Investigations is focused on protecting the security of our nation’s borders and will continue to prioritize cases of illegal smuggling and trafficking,” said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., Special Agent in Charge of HSI New Orleans. "The illicit trade of wildlife is not only a financial crime, but poses health and safety issues as well through these illegal transactions that can potentially transfer disease and other threats around the world."

“The Postal Inspection Service has sought for hundreds of years those who use the Postal Service for illegal gain,” stated Inspector in Charge Christopher M. Stifflemire, U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “The ability to use the mail in a safe and secure manner is at the core of the Postal Inspection Service’s mission.  When criminals use the mail to defraud, Postal Inspectors will not hesitate to ensure they are brought to justice.”

U.S. Attorney Polite praised the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the United States Postal Inspection Service in investigating this matter.  Assistant United States Attorney David Haller is in charge of the prosecution.

Updated March 24, 2016