Columbia, South Carolina – United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Steven Verren Baker, 38, of Holly Hill, South Carolina, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to participating in a Conspiracy to Smuggle Wildlife. Senior United States District Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr., of Columbia, imposed the sentence and ordered Baker to forfeit $263,225.00 in proceeds.
On February 27, 2019, Joseph Logan Brooks, 29, formerly of Holly Hill, was sentenced to five months incarceration and five months home confinement for his participation in the conspiracy. Likewise, on March 1, 2019, fellow conspirator Matthew Tyler Fischer, 26, of Holly Hill, was sentenced to six months home confinement and two years’ probation. William Fischer, age 48, of Harleyville, South Carolina, was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor Wildlife Trafficking violation. All three participated in or facilitated Baker’s efforts.
Matthew Harrison Kail, age 30, of Pomona Park, Florida, and William Thomas Gangemi, age 26, of Freehold, New Jersey, have both pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Evidence presented previously established that Baker was the ringleader of an international syndicate of wildlife smugglers exchanging turtles protected by international agreements back and forth between the United States and China. The activity took place from January through June 2016. Baker obtained protected turtles from Hong Kong to distribute here in the United States, and he shipped protected turtles from the United States to Asia.
The transactions were set up using the Facebook text messaging feature. Shipments were made internationally through the United States Postal Service. Several packages were intercepted entering the United States at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorney Winston David Holliday, Jr., of the Columbia office is prosecuting the case.
SOURCE: news provided by JUSTICE.GOV on March 12, 2019.