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

Just Posted

Pharmacist Hank Chen is known for providing personalized service at Charlie’s Pharmacy in the Fillmore.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Left: A Walgreens at 300 Gough St. is among San Francisco stores closing.
Walgreens closures open the door for San Francisco’s neighborhood pharmacies

‘I think you’ll see more independents start to pop up’

San Franciscans are likely to have the opportunity to vote in four different elections in 2022. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Electionpalooza: SF school board recall will kick off a flurry of local races

‘It’s going to be a lot of elections and a lot of decisions for voters to make’

Four young politicos were elected to city government on the Peninsula in 2020. From left: Redwood City Councilmember Michael Smith; South San Francisco Councilmember James Coleman; Redwood City Councilmember Lissette Espinoza-Garnica; and East Palo Alto Councilmember Antonio Lopez.<ins> (Examiner illustration/Courtesy photos)</ins>
Progressive politicians rise to power on the Peninsula. Will redistricting reverse the trend?

‘There’s this wave of young people really trying to shake things up’

The fate of San Francisco nicotine giant Juul remains to be seen, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether to allow certain flavored vape products on the market. <ins>(Jeenah Moon/New York Times)</ins>
How the vape king of teen nicotine addiction rose and fell in San Francisco

‘Hey, Juul, don’t let the door hit you on the way out’

Most Read