US authorities have sentenced Chinese citizen Kang Juntao to 38 months in prison and one year of supervised release for his involvement in an ML scheme involving turtle trafficking. Kang had pleaded guilty to financing a US-wide network whose members smuggled over 1,500 protected turtles, worth $2,250,000, from the US to Hong Kong. Kang will have to pay a monetary penalty of $10,000.
During 2017-2018, Kang hired poachers, shippers and middlemen to procure and export turtles illegally. Even though Kang had never entered the US, he sent money through US banks to pay for the turtles. He used PayPal, credit cards or bank transfers to transfer the money to purchase turtles from US-based sellers. The sellers shipped the turtles to middlemen – typically Chinese citizens in the US on student visas. Kang paid the middlemen to repackage the turtles in boxes with false labels to ship them secretly to Hong Kong. To avoid detection by customs authorities, the middlemen bound the turtles with duct tape and placed them in socks. Each of the trafficked turtles was subsequently sold illegally in the Chinese pet market for thousands of dollars.
Notably, US authorities have jurisdiction when someone outside of the country pushes more than $10,000 through the US financial system for unlawful activities such as smuggling wildlife. Thus, after Malaysian authorities arrested Kang from Kuala Lumpur in 2019, he was extradited to the US in December 2020.
Source: US Department of Justice