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Marietta man sentenced for illegally smuggling endangered turtles into U.S.

The U.S. Attorney's office said 56-year-old Kenny Chang of Marietta had earned about $40,000 from sales of the turtles.

ATLANTA — A 56-year-old Marietta man has been sentenced to a year of probation and fined $10,000 for illegally smuggling endangered turtles from Asia, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. 

Kuo Pin "Kenny" Chang of Marietta was sentenced for smuggling at least two endangered species, in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Treaty (CITIES), the Lacey Act, and the Endangered Species Act, officials said.

“Illegal trafficking in fish and wildlife is big business all over the globe,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, “Laws protecting endangered species were enacted to preserve our treasures in the wild.  We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to protect endangered wildlife.”

According to Pak, along with the evidence presented in court, the U.S. and about 180 other nations are signatories to CITIES, which is a multinational treaty providing for the regulation of the international trade of wildlife and plants whose survival is considered to be threatened by trade. In the U.S., it is illegal to import wildlife contrary to the provisions of CITIES.

Pak said that Cheng received at least 28 shipments between Oct. 2018 and Jan. 2019 from Hong Kong that contained more than 150 live turtles. Among those he received were multiple species protected under CITIES, as well as two in particular that are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

According to Pak, Cheng attempted to avoid detection by having the shipments labeled as "toys," or  "truck" and addressed to fake names and addresses. After receiving the turtles, Pak said, Cheng sold them to other collectors in the United States that he met online.

Pak said that Cheng admitted to earning about $40,000 from the sales of the illegally imported turtles.

“This arrest and conviction show what collaboration can achieve to protect threatened and endangered species,” said Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “I applaud Service Regional Director Leo Miranda and the office of law enforcement for their collaborative work in leading this effort in conservation of our precious species. We take the business of protecting turtles and other species seriously.”

The case was investigated by the Fish and Wildlife Service.