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Press Release

Saint Paul Man Charged With Illegal Export Of Box Turtles To Hong Kong

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

United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald announced a federal indictment charging RENE PATRICK VARGAS, 32, with illegally exporting box turtles to Hong Kong. VARGAS will make his initial appearance at a later date.

North American box turtle (genus terrapene) populations, native to the United States and Mexico, are in decline due to loss of habitat and illegal trade, including export to Hong Kong and China for use in food, traditional medicine, and to be kept as pets. Although box turtles are not currently threatened with extinction, they are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”) treaty, implemented as part of the Endangered Species Act, to prevent their further decline. It is illegal to export wildlife without prior approval and inspection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as valid export licenses and permits.

As alleged in the indictment, from approximately June 1, 2017 through June 14, 2017, VARGAS completed forms for international shipment of three packages containing a total of 38 box turtles. The packages were falsely labeled as “toys” or “components” and were intended to be transported in interstate and foreign commerce in violation of the Lacey Act.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Miranda E. Dugi.


Defendant Information:


Saint Paul, Minn.


  • Lacey Act false labeling, 3 counts





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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600



The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated August 7, 2018