SoCal man pleads guilty in tortoise smuggling case

Los Angeles, California (AP) 10-07

A Diamond Bar man pleaded guilty during October to smuggling about $30,000 worth of rare Asian tortoises into the United States.

Wai Ho “Bobby” Gin, 31, entered pleas in federal court to one count each of conspiring to smuggle goods into the United States and knowingly importing merchandise prohibited by law.

He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine when he is sentenced in January. Prosecutors have recommended that he receive 10 to 16 months in prison and a $3,000 fine.

In his plea agreement, Gin acknowledged that in 2002 and 2003 he worked with Umesh Tekani, an alleged accomplice in Singapore, to smuggle endangered Radiated and Indian Star tortoises.

The tortoises are prized by collectors for their brilliant shells and can sell for several thousands of dollars on the U.S. black market.

Tekani has been charged with conspiracy, smuggling and money laundering but remains at large.

Four others who were charged with receiving smuggled tortoises from Tekani have pleaded guilty and were sentenced to probation