A Chinese national pleaded guilty Tuesday after smuggling 300 endangered and vulnerable turtles via U.S. mail.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted an investigation that revealed between May 2017 and June 2018, Xiao Dong Qin directed an unindicted co-conspirator in Eugene to purchase more than 300 live turtles.
The turtles came from reptile dealers in Alabama, California, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Qin purchased and transported approximately 136 Florida box turtles, 76 eastern box turtles, 57 North American wood turtles, 20 spotted turtles, 18 diamondback terrapins, seven yellow-blotched map turtles and one Blanding’s turtle through U.S. mail and commercial flights to China.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the market value of the turtles involved in the investigation exceeded $250,000 in the Chinese pet trade.
Qin pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to smuggle goods from the U.S.
He faces a maximum 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised released.
As part of the plea agreement, Qin has agreed to pay nearly $8,000 in restitution to rehabilitation facilities near Chicago and San Antonio and The Turtle Conservancy near Los Angeles for costs associated with the care of turtles that law enforcement recovered.
He will be sentenced Feb. 27 before U.S District Court Judge Michael J. McShane.