LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A San Gabriel man has been sentenced to two months in federal prison for trying to smuggle nearly four dozen turtles from Southern California to Hong Kong, officials said Thursday.
Kwong Wa Cheung, 36, was ordered to begin serving his sentence on Feb. 15. After serving his sentence, Cheung will be on a supervised release for two years, during which time he will serve two months in a residential halfway house and perform 500 hours of community service at an animal shelter, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Cheung was also ordered to pay a $12,000 fine.
Prosecutors say Cheung tried to smuggle 46 turtles and tortoises by bringing three boxes containing the reptiles to a U.S. Postal Service facility in San Gabriel labeled with a fake name and address, which aroused suspicion. The Postal Service refused to ship the packages and was unable to locate Cheung because he used a fake name on the package.
The undelivered packages were shipped to a “dead mail” facility in Georgia, where at least one of the packages began to emit a strong odor because one of the now-dead turtles was already decomposing, officials said. When a Postal Inspector opened one of the packages, he found the reptiles packaged in athletic socks.
Subsequent investigation linked Cheung to the mislabeled packages, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The 26 Eastern Box turtles and 20 African Spurred tortoises are species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Cheung pleaded guilty in August to one count one of mislabeling wildlife intended for foreign commerce.