spotted pond turtle

The Spotted Pond Turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) is an endangered species.

Collectors will shell out serious cash for imported turtles — even if they are illegal.

A man from Marietta has been sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to forfeit $10,000 by a federal judge after pleading guilty to smuggling protected turtles from Asia, according to the Department of Justice.

According to federal prosecutors, Kuo Pin “Kenny” Cheng, 56, of Marietta received at least 28 shipments from Hong Kong with over 150 live turtles between October 2018 and January 2019. The turtles included multiple species protected by an international treaty and federal law, as well as two endangered species: the Asian Spotted Pond turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) and Three-Keeled Asian (Melanochelys tricarinata).

To avoid detection, Cheng had the shipments labeled “toys” or “truck” and addressed to fake names, said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, adding Cheng admitted he earned about $40,000 from selling the smuggled animals.

“Illegal trafficking in fish and wildlife is big business all over the globe,” Pak said. “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.”

“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 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and prosecuted by assistant U.S. Attorney Alex R. Sistla.

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