Crime - Sacto 911

Elk Grove woman charged with smuggling endangered turtle species into Hong Kong

Celeste Hopper holds a box turtle, an endangered species.
Celeste Hopper holds a box turtle, an endangered species. Merced Sun-Star

An Elk Grove woman was indicted by a federal grand jury Monday on suspicion of smuggling endangered turtle species from California to Hong Kong without proper export permits.

In a news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California said Keri Zhang Wang, 21, was charged with four counts of smuggling goods and four counts of falsely labeling wildlife between September 2016 and June 2019.

Wang is accused of smuggling at least 11 packages of box turtles and map turtles, which are endangered and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The United States and Hong Kong are signatories of the treaty.

The indictment alleges Wang stuffed the turtles into socks to restrict their movement and hid them in shoeboxes full of packing materials, then put the shoeboxes in larger packages containing bags of snacks for shipment.

Wang allegedly labeled these packages but did not say they contained wildlife, did not declare them to U.S. officials and lacked permits allowing her to export turtles.

She is scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday in San Jose.

Vincent Moleski covers business and breaking news for The Bee and is a graduate student in literature at Sacramento State. He was born and raised in Sacramento and previously wrote for the university’s student newspaper, the State Hornet.