(STL.News) – A Worcester man pleaded guilty yesterday in connection with unlawfully importing and exporting salamander and turtle species.
Nathan Boss, 27, pleaded guilty to two counts of smuggling wildlife into the United States, two counts of smuggling wildlife out of the United States, and making a false statement to a federal agent. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman scheduled sentencing for Sept. 24, 2020. Boss was arrested and charged by criminal complaint in October 2019 and indicted in November 2019.
The investigation began in 2017 when Boss lied to federal investigators about the identity of a recipient of wildlife illegally imported into the United States. Subsequently, federal investigators intercepted an inbound U.S. Postal Service package from Hong Kong that was addressed to “Shelton Boss” at an address on Mildred Avenue in Worcester. The package was found to contain four black-breasted leaf turtles (Geoemyda spengleri), a species included in the Convention for Trade in Endangered Species and Wild Fauna, an international agreement joined by the U.S. that governs the importation of designated wildlife. Specifically, any black-breasted leaf turtle imported into the United States must be declared and approved by Fish and Wildlife Service before any shipment can be received.
Boss was also found to have illegally imported an injurious species of salamander which can carry a fungal disease and is prohibited from importation into the United States. Further investigation revealed that, on multiple occasions, Boss illegally exported undeclared wildlife destined for locations in Hong Kong and Sweden.
The charges provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Ryan Noel, Special Agent in Charge, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement made the announcement. Assistance with the investigation was provided by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Massachusetts Environmental Police and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadine Pellegrini of Lelling’s Criminal Division is prosecuting the case.