S.F. pet store manager smuggled endangered turtles into U.S.

A 29-year-old pet store manager has pleaded guilty to smuggling endangered turtles from Asia and Australia and lying about it on U.S. Customs documents.

Prosecutors said San Francisco resident Coleman Lau tried to hide 14 baby Fly River turtles inside his clothing when he returned from Hong Kong to San Francisco International Airport in March 2004.

U.S. Attorney Scott N. Schools said Thursday that Lau knew it was illegal to import the turtles and lied on a customs declaration asking whether he was bringing wildlife into the U.S.

Fly River turtles enjoy a protected status in their native countries and under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The amphibians – which cost up to $500 at pet stores – grow to be approximately two feet long and are native to fresh water in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Customs officials who seized Lau's turtles handed them over to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which found homes for them at a research center and in California zoos and aquariums. Lau said in court he has been manager of a San Francisco fish and aquarium store for several years.

Lau could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. Lau, who is scheduled to be sentenced in February, faces a maximum penalty for each count of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Union threatens legal action after Police Commission expands use-of-force policy

San Francisco’s police union is pursuing legal action after the Police Commission… Continue reading

Restorative art on the inside and out

Curator Ericka Scott organizes exhibition of works by prisoners

City Attorney seeks to recoup ‘illegal profits’ gained by Walter Wong through city contracts

San Francisco will seek to recover “illegal profits” gained by well-known permit… Continue reading

SF Police Commission votes to expand use-of-force policy

Decision to bypass union negotiations could set stage for litigation

Free Muni for Youth program expansion halted by SFMTA budget crisis

Low- and moderate-income kids can still travel for free

Most Read