Marietta man sentenced for smuggling endangered turtles from Asia

Credit: Bicanski via Pixnio

Credit: Bicanski via Pixnio

A metro Atlanta man was sentenced on federal charges after prosecutors said he pleaded guilty to illegally smuggling endangered species of turtles from Asia and selling them to collectors across the United States.

Kuo Pin “Kenny” Cheng, 56, of Marietta, admitted to making thousands of dollars from the illegal turtle sales, according to U.S. Attorney BJay Pak. He was sentenced to one year on probation after pleading guilty to a count of unlawfully smuggling turtles.

Prosecutors said Cheng received more than 150 live turtles from Hong Kong between October 2018 and January 2019. The turtles, which were delivered in at least 28 different shipments, were addressed to several fake names and labeled as toys, Pak said.

Cheng would sell the turtles to collectors across the country who he met online, Pak said. In total, he made more than $40,000 from the illegal sales.

Authorities said the shipments included Asian spotted pond turtles and three-keeled Asian turtles, both of which are classified as endangered species. Each of those species can cost upward of $290.

While that price tag may leave some shell-shocked, Pak said the illegal sale of endangered wildlife is, unfortunately, common.

“Illegal trafficking in fish and wildlife is big business all over the globe,” he said. “Laws protecting endangered species were enacted to preserve our treasures in the wild.”

Pak said the United States is one of more than 180 countries that signed a treaty regulating the international trade of endangered or threatened wildlife. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Treaty is part of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, Pak said.

Cheng’s sentence was handed down in court Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, Pak said. In addition to probation, Cheng was ordered to forfeit $10,000, he said.