July 21, 2024
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA

Brooklyn Man Indicted for Smuggling Protected Turtles


A federal grand jury has indicted a New York resident, Russell Milis, in a three-count indictment for allegedly shipping eastern box turtles and three-toed box turtles, which are protected wildlife species, from the U.S. to China for the global pet trade black market.

Milis, a 26-year-old from Brooklyn, faces two counts of smuggling goods from the United States and one count of violating the Lacey Act.

The indictment accuses Milis of exporting the turtles between November 2019 and November 2020 without the required license and without declaring the wildlife to customs officials as mandated by the Endangered Species Act. Both turtle species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement to protect species that are or may become threatened with extinction. The United States and China are parties to this agreement. The indictment claims Milis shipped the turtles to China without the necessary CITES permits.

Additionally, the indictment charges Milis with mislabeling the packages containing the turtles, in violation of the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act, the oldest wildlife trafficking statute in the U.S., prohibits the shipping of wildlife, fish, or plants in interstate or international commerce without accurate labeling.

The eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) and the three-toed box turtle (Terrapene triunguis) are both subspecies of the common box turtle. They are native to forested regions and woodlands of the eastern and central United States. Turtles with colorful markings are highly valued in the pet trade, especially in China and Hong Kong, where they can fetch several thousand dollars.

If convicted, Milis faces up to 10 years in prison for each smuggling count and up to five years for violating the Lacey Act. He could also be fined up to $250,000 or twice the financial gain from the crime, per count. Sentencing will be determined by a federal district court judge considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Assistant Director Edward Grace of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Office of Law Enforcement announced the charges. The USFWS, with help from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, investigated the case. Senior Trial Attorney Ryan Connors and Trial Attorney Elise Kent Bernanke are prosecuting, with support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

It’s important to note that an indictment is only an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Source: https://www.shorenewsnetwork.com/2024/06/07/brooklyn-man-indicted-for-shipping-endangered-turtles-to-china/

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