Conspirators Sentenced in Multimillion-Dollar Reptile Smuggling Scheme
Department of Justice Press Release Number: 23-118 - Topic(s): Environment
Today, Ka Yeung Marvin Chan, a Canadian national, was sentenced to a term of 14 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for his role in a conspiracy to smuggle reptiles from the United States to Asia.
Chan is the last of three defendants sentenced for their roles in this reptile trafficking scheme. According to court documents and information in the public record, Chan and another conspirator, Daisuke Miyauchi, owned and operated businesses overseas and engaged in the sale of reptiles. Both men periodically traveled to the United States to purchase, among other things, ball pythons, blood pythons, common tegus, Argentine tegus, and iguanas, which are protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Chan and Miyachi then worked with co-conspirator Chun Ku to smuggle the reptiles out of the country using Ku’s Master File CITES permit and fraudulent export paperwork. CITES regulates trade in endangered or threatened species through permit requirements.
Over a seven-year period, the conspirators collectively engaged in at least 107 separate criminal acts, smuggling to Asia a total of 8,738 CITES II protected animals with a retail market value in excess of $5.13 million. In addition to the CITES II species, the fraudulent shipments contained 61,622 non-CITES animals, many of which were also smuggled.
Chan and his co-conspirators each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to falsely label wildlife being exported from the United States and to smuggle goods and merchandise out of the United States as well as submitting false records and false identification of wildlife intended to be exported.
On Nov. 18, 2022, Ku was sentenced to concurrent terms of one year and one-day imprisonment, two years supervised release, and a $20,000 fine. On Feb. 22, 2022, Miyauchi was sentenced to concurrent terms of 13 months in prison. Each received favorable consideration at sentencing due to their cooperation with authorities during the investigation.
“The defendants abused a system designed to streamline the exportation of captive-bred reptiles for law-abiding breeders. They allowed other business owners to sell and ship reptiles to buyers in Asia without going through the federal agency vetting process,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “These prosecutions reflect law enforcement’s commitment to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement is committed to conducting criminal investigations combating the illegal international reptile trade,” said Assistant Director Ed Grace of the Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement “The Office of Law Enforcement takes violations of the Lacey Act seriously. The three-year-long investigation involving the three defendants uncovered at least 107 criminal acts, a combined monetary value of $5,134,000, and involved a conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, smuggle CITES Appendix II reptiles out of the United States, and create and submit fraudulent documents to the government prior to export. We will continue to work combating wildlife smuggling while striving to maintain the integrity of the legal export process.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the case with special thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Division of Management Authority.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald for the Southern District of Florida and Senior Trial Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section prosecuted the case.
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