Man Charged With Smuggling Protected Turtles As Cookies

(Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Ilan Hulkower Contributor
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Sai Keung Tin, a 53-year-old Chinese man from Hong Kong, was charged Friday for smuggling protected American wildlife to China, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Tin allegedly helped smuggle 40 eastern box turtles, a protected species, to China by labeling the packages containing turtles as almonds and chocolate cookies, the DOJ statement read. (RELATED: Chinese State-Owned Outlets Rally To TikTok’s Defense As US Looks To Ban It)

Three of the four packages Tin allegedly sent contained between eight and 12 turtles bound in socks to prevent them from moving, according to court documents, the DOJ press statement noted. The fourth package contained seven live turtles and one deceased turtle, the DOJ said.

Prosecutors allege in the press release that Tin was an associate of Kang Juntao, a convicted financier of turtle smuggling. Juntao, a Chinese national, was extradited from Malaysia on Dec. 10, 2020, to face trial in the United States. Juntao pleaded guilty to financing a network of turtle smuggling worth over $2 million, according to a DOJ press release. Juntao was sentenced on Oct. 6, 2021, to 38 months in jail and one year of supervised release, the DOJ noted.

“The Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute those who finance and profit from illegal wildlife trafficking, even if they do so from abroad,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, according to the press release.

If convicted on each count of smuggling, Tin could face up to 40 years in prison, the DOJ noted.