International Shipping Company Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Endangered Sea Turtle Shells
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.- London-based Hedley’s Humpers, Ltd., pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco today to smuggling two sea turtle shells into the United States in violation of the Endangered Species Act, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Special Agent in Charge William Giles.
In pleading guilty, the corporate defendant admitted to fraudulently importing from Europe the shells, as well as other protected wildlife articles. The company further admitted it facilitated the concealment and transportation of the sea turtle shells to the United States. The shells were from the species Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) that are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and are therefore are not permitted to be transported into the United States. The species of Green Sea Turtle also were identified as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Notwithstanding the laws protecting the turtles and prohibiting transportation of the shells into the United States, Hedley’s Humpers imported the turtles’ shells from Europe and facilitated their concealment and transportation to the Northern District of California. Among the acts in which Hedley’s Humpers engaged was to falsely describe the sea turtle shells on an invoice as “2 mottled oval sculptures” and enclose the shells in a package labeled “1x armchair.” Heldey’s Humpers also admitted it smuggled other protected wildlife items in previous years, with a total market value of more than $70,000.
Hedley’s Humpers was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 15, 2014. On August 5, 2014, the grand jury issued a superseding indictment charging Hedley’s Jumpers with four counts of violating smuggling laws: one count of smuggling and aiding and abetting smuggling, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 545; two counts of conspiracy to traffic and smuggle wildlife, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; and one count of wildlife trafficking in violation of 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(d) and 2273(d). Pursuant to today’s agreement, Hedley’s Humpers pleaded guilty to one count of smuggling in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 545.
Pursuant to the plea agreement, Hedley’s Humpers agreed to a three-year period of probation, a $75,000 fine, $25,000 in community service payments, and a $400 mandatory special assessment, although those sentencing provisions will have to be approved by the federal court. Sentencing is scheduled for July 7, 2015, at 2:00 p.m. before the Honorable William H. Alsup, U.S. District Judge, in San Francisco. Any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hartley M.K. West is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rosario Calderon. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Border Enforcement Security Task Force.