Woodhaven brothers get jail time in conspiracy to smuggle turtles from Queens to Hong Kong: Feds

Turtle intercepted before being shipped off to Hong Kong with no food or water. (Photo courtesy of The Eastern District for New York.)

Two brothers from Woodhaven will do jail time for smuggling hundreds of turtles from the U.S. to Hong Kong through numerous post offices in Queens.

Ghu Sen Guan was sentenced in Brooklyn federal court to one year in prison, a week after his brother Chu Wei Guan was sentenced to one year and a day for admitting they shipped more than 600 North American turtles to Hong Kong, where they fetched more than $2 million on the black market, according to court documents.

Several species of North American turtles are sought after in China for medicinal purposes and some as pets. Between November 2017 and August 2018, the brothers purchased the box and wood turtles for $200 to $400 each and then packaged them in “remarkably cruel and harmful ways,” federal prosecutors said.

Each turtle, about the size of a human hand, was prepared for shipping.

“The defendants forced the turtles’ heads and limbs inside of their shells and then shoved these turtles into a sock, which they knotted shut. The socks were intended to absorb urine and feces so the package would not leak during transport. The socks also prevented the shells from chipping (which would damage the turtles’ value) or making noise if they were jostled together, which could alert authorities,” prosecutors said. “The defendants would then tightly bind this bundle with tape. Next, the defendants would wrap the end of the sock back around the bundle and would package the turtles — approximately 10 at a time, in layers of four to six turtles per layer — into a tightly taped cardboard box filled with newspaper or clothing.”

Turtle shoved in a sock before being put in a box with no air holes, food or water. (Photo courtesy of The Eastern District for New York.)
Turtles in socks, stuffed in a box. The boxes were labeled as toys to avoid detection. (Photo courtesy of The Eastern District for New York.)

The boxes were labeled as toys to avoid detection.

In late 2017, the same year that an Oakland Gardens man pleaded guilty to federal charges for smuggling turtles in a similar scheme, inspectors from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at JFK Airport, intercepted one of the packages at the International Mail Facility. Following an investigation in which special agents and inspectors followed a paper trail, the brothers were indicted in October 2019 on charges of illegal exportation of wildlife conspiracy.

After they pleaded guilty to the charges, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace sought sentences of 37 to 46 months’ imprisonment under government guidelines that would provide appropriate deterrence to “others who might consider similar conduct.”

Chu Sen Guan was sentenced to one year in prison and one year of supervised release and fined $15,000 for his role in smuggling 635 turtles. His brother, Chu Wei Guan, was sentenced to two concurrent one-year-and-a-day sentences with one-year post-release supervision, and he was fined $10,000.