A St. Paul man has been charged with illegally exporting box turtles to Hong Kong in deceptively labeled packages.
Rene P. Vargas, 32, was charged Monday in federal court in Minneapolis with exporting 38 of the turtles during the first two weeks of June 2017.
Vargas completed forms for international shipment of three packages and falsely labeled them as “toys” or “components.”
He is to make his first court appearance Aug. 22. His criminal history in Minnesota includes convictions for drunken driving, possession of drug paraphernalia and disorderly conduct. Court records do not list a defense attorney, and Vargas was not immediately available to respond to the allegations.
Box turtles, native to the United States and Mexico, are in decline due to loss of habitat and illegal trade, including export to Hong Kong and China for use in food, traditional medicine and to be kept as pets.
It’s illegal to export wildlife without approval and inspection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as without valid export licenses and permits.