Southern California man gets 6 months in federal prison in tortoise smuggling ring

Los Angeles, California (AP) 4-08

A man accused of participating in an international smuggling ring that trafficked rare Asian tortoises into the United States was sentenced to 61/2 months in federal prison.

Wai Ho Gin was also ordered to spend another 61/2 months in home detention by U.S. District Judge J. Spencer Letts.

Gin, 32, of Diamond Bar, had pleaded guilty to smuggling and conspiracy charges in October. In his plea agreement, Gin admitted to working with Umesh Tekani, an alleged accomplice in Singapore, in smuggling the endangered radiated and Indian Star tortoises worth more than $30,000.

Court papers allege that Gin received the creatures from Tekani, who has been charged with conspiracy, smuggling and money laundering but remains at large.

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