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Monday, October 17 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
Law Enforcement. Operation Herpsaspetz

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AUTHORS: Special Agt. Scotty Boudreaux, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

ABSTRACT: In 2012, Special Agents with US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating a US postal worker who completed unusual banking transactions from November 2011 through March 2012. The target received approximately $186,225.00 in 13 incoming wires from Hong Kong, China. Intelligence gathered by investigators indicated the target was smuggling turtles to China Investigative techniques included the execution of grand jury subpoenas, administrative subpoenas, mail covers, aerial surveillance, and the use of IP surveillance cameras of the subject’s residence. In June of 2014 a search warrant was executed on the suspect’s home and evidence of the scheme was gathered. The suspect confessed and became a cooperating defendant.

Immediately, investigators structured a joint covert investigation named Operation Herpsaspetz, with USFWS/OLE, USPIS, HSI, and DOJ. The operation identified and dismantled an unlawful scheme in which, nearly $345,000.00 worth of North American Wood turtles were sold illegally. Investigators estimate that more than 750 turtles were captured illegally from a small area south of Pittsburg, PA during a three-year period. During that time the turtles were sent via a common carrier to Louisiana. From Louisiana they were sold and smuggled to Hong Kong via California. The investigation gathered evidence against every co-conspirator. Several American and international suspects were arrested for violations of the Lacey Act, Endangered Species Act, smuggling, money laundering, using fictitious names addresses, and conspiracy violations.

During the execution of Operation Herspsaspetz, the cooperating defendant was contacted by a known reptile trafficker from Illinois. The Illinois native was not involved with the current scheme, but quickly became lagniappe for Louisiana agents. The target visited Louisiana to complete a large deal for wood turtles then arrested for several felony violations of the Lacey Act.

During this multi-jurisdictional, covert investigation, SA’s executed multiple subpoenas, 10 search warrants, and made 7 arrests, 3 of the arrests have been of foreign nationals. Two of the foreign nationals were arrested during a controlled delivery by Hong Kong Customs. Monetary seizures total $134,000.00. These events have taken place in 5 different states, and in Hong Kong, China. The prosecution phase has yielded 6½ years of incarceration, 25 years of probation, and $51,000.00 in fines and restitution so far. The extradition of the final co-conspirator is currently underway.

While conducting this operation, enough cannot be said about the extraordinary teamwork by investigators from all the agencies involved. This coordination yielded a very successful operation against a lucrative wildlife smuggling enterprise. The unlawful international trade in turtles, fuels an unsustainable market that will drive our wild native species to extinction.

Monday October 17, 2016 4:30pm - 5:00pm
Victory Room

Attendees (3)