Gardena Man Convicted for Trying to Smuggle Coral to Mexico - NBC Southern California

Gardena Man Convicted for Trying to Smuggle Coral to Mexico

Fish and Wildlife officials seized 474 undeclared items, including the coral, at the airport.

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    Gardena Man Convicted for Trying to Smuggle Coral to Mexico
    AP
    In this Nov. 26, 2009 file photo, orange colored ringed rice coral, or montipora patula, is seen in waters off Waimanalo, Hawaii. A study by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says Americans value coral reefs around the main Hawaiian Islands at the amount of $33.57 billion. Researchers arrived at the figure by surveying 3,200 Americans across the nation and asking them how much of their income taxes they would want devoted to hypothetical initiatives to improve the health of Hawaii's coral reefs. (AP Photo/Keoki Stender, file)

    A Gardena man who tried to smuggle an illegal shipment of protected live coral to Mexico was convicted of federal charges Thursday and faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

    Jose Torres, 44, was convicted of attempting to illegally export wildlife and two counts of making and submitting a false record for wildlife intended to be exported, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

    Prosecutors said Torres claimed to be the owner of a company called Orca International and was contacted by Mexican firm that wanted to purchase fish and coral, but it did not want to wait to obtain required permits under a treaty known as the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

    In an effort to fill the order, Torres went to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Torrance On Jan. 31, 2013, and claimed he was shipping 16 cartons of fish, but he instead packed 40 boxes he knew to contain protected coral, prosecutors said.

    He took the shipment to Los Angeles International Airport that night and gave AeroMexico the ill-gotten USFW paperwork to have the materials shipped to Mexico. Fish and Wildlife officials at the airport, however, inspected the packages and seized 474 undeclared items, including protected coral, prosecutors said.

    Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 10.

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