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Chinese National Sentenced to Prison in Turtle Smuggling Case


WASHINGTON – Wang Hong, a Chinese national, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Denver to 167 days in prison and three years of supervised release, the Justice Department announced today. Wang pleaded guilty to federal smuggling charges earlier this year in connection with his sale and shipment of endangered sea turtle shell and shell products from China to the United States.

Wang was arrested on Sept. 6, 2007, as part of a multi-year undercover investigation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Branch of Special Operations. Wang had been indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2007, together with co-defendant Stephen Cheng, also of China. On Jan. 3, 2008, Wang pleaded guilty to knowingly sending four shipments of Hawksbill sea turtle shell and violin bows decorated with Hawksbill sea turtle shell, valued at a total of over $5,000, to undercover agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service working in Colorado during 2006 and 2007.

“Today’s sentence sends a strong statement that those who illegally traffic in endangered species will be punished,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Justice Department will continue to prosecute the illegal smuggling of protected species such as sea turtles and to insure that those who engage in such activity cannot regard the United States as a safe market for their illegal products.”

“This operation shows we mean business when it comes to protecting sea turtles,” said Troy Eid, U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado.

To date, six of the seven defendants detained in September 2007 as a result of this investigation have pleaded guilty: Chinese nationals Fu Yiner and Wang Hong; Mexican nationals Carlos Leal Barragan and Esteban Lopez Estrada; Oscar Cueva of McAllen, Texas; and Jorge Caraveo of El Paso, Texas. Fu Yiner was sentenced on Jan. 22, 2008, to 138 days of imprisonment (time served) and three years of supervised release.

The Hawksbill sea turtle is listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. It is also protected internationally by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), a multilateral treaty to which the United States, China, and approximately 170 other countries are parties. Importation of sea turtles into the United States for primarily commercial purposes is strictly prohibited by CITES and U.S. law.

This prosecution is the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Branch of Special Operations, led by Special Agent George Morrison. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda McMahan of the District of Colorado, and Senior Trial Attorney Robert S. Anderson and Trial Attorney Colin L. Black of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section.


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