Two Malaysian Men Sentenced to Federal Prison for Smuggling Endangered Wildlife into U.S.
PORTLAND, Ore. - Two Malaysian nationals pled guilty to conspiring to smuggle wildlife today after they used mail parcels to smuggle five orangutan skulls and nine other protected species of wildlife, including bear claws and macaque skulls, into the District of Oregon.
Eoin Ling Churn Yeng, 35, and Galvin Yeo Siang Ann, 33, both Malaysian citizens, admitted before U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones to conspiring to smuggle wildlife into the District of Oregon from 2008 through 2015. Following their guilty pleas the Court immediately sentenced them to six months in prison and fines totaling $25,000.00. Each defendant was also ordered to perform 240 hours of community service and will be required to serve one year of supervised release after his prison term.
The investigation into Ling and Yeo began in 2013, when a routine search of an international package revealed a helmeted hornbill mandible that was being shipped to a residence in Forest Grove, Oregon. Helmeted hornbills are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) initiated an undercover operation named “Operation Pongo,” for the orangutan genus Pongo. The investigation revealed that Ling and Yeo were co-owners of an online business that has smuggled approximately $95,000 worth of endangered wildlife into the U.S. since 2004.
Undercover Service agents communicated with Ling and Yeo and purchased three orangutan skulls, four helmeted hornbill skulls, one CITES-protected rhino hornbill head, one ESA-protected babirusa (wild pig) skull, one CITES-protected langur skull, and one ESA-protected dugong (marine mammal) rib over the course of the operation. In December 2015, Ling and Yeo traveled to Portland to meet an associate, but agents with Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration arrested them soon after their arrival.
“I commend all the agencies that played a role in this successful investigation and prosecution,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Chief Edward Grace. “Orangutans are one of the rarest great ape species on Earth, and the desire to possess a skull from one as tourist art or trophy in someone's collection will not be tolerated. The Service will continue to fully investigate and bring to justice those individuals who continue to perpetrate criminal acts involving orangutans and other protected wildlife species.”
Operation Pongo was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which received assistance from the Office of International Affairs, Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. State Department, FBI Legal Attaché in Kuala Lumpur, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Bureau of Land Management, and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Ryan W. Bounds.