A San Gabriel man tried to avoid detection when he smuggled nearly four dozen endangered turtles, but he wasn't fast enough.
Kwong Wa Cheung, 36, was sentenced Tuesday to serve two months in federal prison for trying to smuggle 46 turtles and tortoises last year from Southern California to Hong Kong, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles. The animals --26 eastern box turtles and 20 African spurred tortoises -- are endangered species.
In August, he pleaded guilty to one count of mislabeling wildlife intended for foreign commerce.
Prosecutors said he took three boxes containing the turtles and tortoises to the U.S. Postal Service facility in San Gabriel. Using a fake name, Cheung tried to pass the boxes off as toy packages.
But postal employees became suspicious and refused to ship the boxes, prosecutors said.
The employees were unable to deliver the boxes or locate Cheung because he had used a fake name, so the packages were eventually shipped to a facility in Georgia.
But just days later, one of the packages began to emit a strong odor.
When the package was opened, an inspector found dead turtles, which were decomposing and wrapped in athletic socks.
Investigators were eventually able to link the mislabeled packages to Cheung, prosecutors said.
After Cheung is released from prison, he will be on supervised release for two years. He must also perform 500 hours of community service at an animal shelter.
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