Four men sentenced for smuggling turtles internationally, SC District Attorney says

Four men sentenced for smuggling turtles internationally, SC District Attorney says
SC District Attorney: Four men sentenced for smuggling turtles internationally (WBTV graphic)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Four men are sentenced for smuggling turtles internationally, the South Carolina District Attorney says.

Steven Verren Baker, 38, of Holly Hill was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to participating in a conspiracy to smuggle wildlife. A district judge order Baker to pay a fine of $263,225.00.

First Assistant U.S Attorney Lance Crick said, Baker as the ringleader of an international group of wildlife smugglers that exchange turtles protected by international agreements between United States and China.

Several transactions were set up using the Facebook text messaging feature and shipments were made internationally through the United States Postal Service, Crick says.

Baker was not alone in his efforts to smuggle turtles, the state’s district attorney says.

Joseph Logan Brooks, Matthew Tyler Fischer and William Fischer all participated or facilitated in Baker’s efforts, according to the state’s district attorney.

Joseph Logan Brooks, 29, of Holly Hill was sentenced to five months incarceration and five months home confinement for his participation in the conspiracy.

Matthew Tyler Fischer, 26, of Holly Hill was sentenced to six months home confinement and two years’ probation.

William Fischer, 48, of Harleyville was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor wildlife trafficking violation.

The international wildlife smuggling took place from January through June 2016. Baker obtained protected turtles from Hong Kong to distribute in the United States and shipped protected turtles from the United States to Asia, the state’s district attorney reports.

Matthew Harrison Kail, 30, of Pomona Park, Florida and William Thomas Gangemi, 26, of Freehold, New Jersey have both pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Several packages were intercepted entering the United States at John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to the state’s district attorney’s office.

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