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Press Release

Pennsylvanian Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Smuggle Turtles out of the United States and to Using a Fictitious Name and Address

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

U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that JOHN TOKOSH, age 54, of Pennsylvania,  pled guilty today to an indictment charging him with conspiring to smuggle turtles out of the United States, violating the Lacey Act, and using a fictitious name and address in a mailing.

According to court records, from late 2011 to the fall of 2014, TOKOSH and five other named individuals conspired to smuggle turtles from the United States and to have used false labels on packages of turtles being shipped in foreign and interstate commerce.  TOKOSH is also alleged to have violated the Lacey Act, which prohibits trafficking in illegally taken wildlife, and to have used a fictitious name and address in mailings that were sent in furtherance of the scheme. 

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.  TOKOSH also admitted to using the alias “Jay Rockington” in an effort to disguise that he was the source of the turtles.

TOKOSH faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, a fine of $250,000, and up to 3 years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.  U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle set sentencing for February 24, 2016.

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 December 3, 2015