Four South Carolina men sentenced in an international wildlife smuggling case

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, SC (WCBD) – Four men in South Carolina have been sentenced in an international wildlife smuggling case.

United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon on Tuesday announced that Steven Verren Baker, 38, of Holly Hill, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to participating in a Conspiracy to Smuggle Wildlife. 

Senior United States District Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr., of Columbia, imposed the sentence and ordered Baker to forfeit $263,225.00 in proceeds.

According to a press release, 29-year-old Joseph Logan Brooks, formerly of Holly Hill, was sentenced to five months incarceration and five months of house arrest on February 27 for his participation in the conspiracy. 

On March 1st, fellow conspirator Matthew Tyler Fischer, 26, also of Holly Hill, was sentenced to six months home confinement and two years’ probation.

Finally, the release said William Fischer, 48, of Harleyville, was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor Wildlife Trafficking violation. 

All three participated in or facilitated Baker’s efforts.   

According to the US Attorney’s Office, evidence in the case revealed that Baker was the ringleader of an international syndicate of wildlife smugglers in an effort to exchange turtles that are 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 and shipments were made internationally through the United States Postal Service.

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

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources investigated the case. 

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