A Chinese citizen has pleaded guilty to directing a scheme where hundreds of endangered turtles were purchased through a contact in Eugene, Oregon, and smuggled via U.S. mail and commercial airline flights to China.
Xiao Dong Qin, 34, a resident of Shanghai, pleaded guilty last week to one count of conspiring to smuggle goods from the U.S.
According to court documents, beginning in at least May 2017 and continuing until June 2018, Qin directed an unindicted co-conspirator in Eugene to purchase more than 300 live turtles from reptile dealers in Alabama, California, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina and South Carolina.
A two-year investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed that in a 13-month period, Qin facilitated the purchase and transportation of 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.
Fortunately, it appears that none were teenage, mutant or ninja.
Investigators determined the market value of the turtles involved in this investigation exceeded $250,000 in the Chinese pet trade.
Qin was arrested by Fish and Wildlife agents at the Los Angeles International Airport when he arrived on a flight from Shanghai in February.
Qin faces a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. He will be sentenced on Feb. 27, 2020, in U.S. District Court in Portland.