Holly Hill Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Smuggle Wildlife
Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon stated today that Steven Verren Baker, age 38, of Holly Hill, pled guilty to Conspiracy to Smuggle Wildlife, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, § 371. Senior Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr., accepted the plea and will sentence Baker at a later date.
Evidence presented at the hearing established that Baker was the ringleader of an international syndicate of wildlife smugglers exchanging turtles protected by international agreements back and forth between the United States and China. The activity took place from January through June 2016. Baker obtained protected turtles from Hong Kong to distribute here in the United States, and he shipped protected turtles from the United States to Asia.
The transactions were set up using the Facebook text messaging feature. Shipments were made internationally through the United States Postal Service. Several packages were intercepted entering the United States at John F. Kennedy International Airport
The maximum penalty faced by Baker is imprisonment for five years, with a potential fine up to $250,000.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorney Winston David Holliday, Jr., of the Columbia office is prosecuting the case.