4 SC men sentenced for international wildlife smuggling of protected turtles

COLUMBIA, S.C (WOLO) – The US Attorney announced that four South Carolina men were sentenced for international wildlife smuggling.

Steven Verren Baker, 38, of Holly Hill, pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to smuggle wildlife. A judge also ordered Baker to forfeit over $263,000 in proceeds.

In February 2019, Joseph Logan Brooks, 29, was sentenced to five months incarceration and five months home confinement for his participation in the conspiracy.

In March 2019, fellow conspirator Matthew Tyler Fischer, 26, was sentenced to six months home confinement and two years’ probation.

WIlliam Fischer, 48, was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay at $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor wildlife trafficking violation.

All three participated in or facilitated Baker’s efforts.

Matthew Harrison Kail, age 30, of Pomona Park, Florida, and William Thomas Gangemi, age 26, of Freehold, New Jersey, have both pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Evidence presented previously established that Baker was the ringleader of an international syndicate of wildlife smugglers exchanging turtles protected by international agreements back and forth between the United States and China.

The activity took place from January through June 2016. Baker obtained protected turtles from Hong Kong to distribute here in the United States, and he shipped protected turtles from the United States to Asia.

The transactions were set up using the Facebook text messaging feature. Shipments were made internationally through the United States Postal Service.

Several packages were intercepted entering the United States at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

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