A San Gabriel man was sentenced to federal prison Tuesday after attempting to smuggle 46 turtles from Southern California to Hong Kong. The animals—26 Eastern Box turtles and 20 African Spurred tortoises—were endangered species.
Kwong Wa Cheung, 36, brought three boxes containing the animals to a U.S. Postal Service facility in San Gabriel, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. Cheung used a fake name and address, and declared the contents of the packages as toys.
His fake name aroused suspicion, and the Postal Service refused to send the packages. Staff shipped the boxes to a facility in Georgia, where the boxes began to emit a strong odor after a few days, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. A Postal Inspector opened the packages and found the reptiles packaged in athletic socks and dead. Investigators eventually linked Cheung to the packages.
Cheung pleaded guilty in August to one count of mislabeling wildlife intended for foreign commerce. He was sentenced to two months in federal prison, followed by a supervised release for two years. He must also perform 500 hours of community service at an animal shelter and pay a $12,000 fine.