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A man from the Little Saigon area of Westminster was sentenced Monday to 15 months of home confinement for illegally importing more than a dozen federally protected turtles and fish from Vietnam.
Kevin Duc Vu, who had a business selling fish and turtles on the internet, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder to pay a $35,000 fine during his three-year term of probation.
Vu pleaded guilty in October in downtown Los Angeles to a felony charge of importing wildlife contrary to law.
"It will never happen again,'' he told the judge.
Vu, 44, admitted in a plea agreement that he imported seven "big-headed'' turtles and seven Asian arowana fish -- both of which are protected under the federal Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and can only be brought into the United States with permits.
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The package from Vietnam -- labeled "aquarium supplies'' -- also contained seven "four-eyed'' turtles, six Asian box turtles and a black-breasted turtle, which are also all protected under federal law, according to Vu's plea deal filed in Los Angeles federal court.
The FedEx package was intercepted on Sept. 29, 2016, by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and examined by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents. Six of the turtles ultimately died as a result of being shipped through the mail, prosecutors said.
The value of the illicit wildlife totaled more than $67,000 on the black market, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Several months earlier, Vu paid $6,600 to the same overseas supplier for 16 Asian arowana fish, divided into two shipments, court papers show. FedEx delivered the packages to Vu's home in May 2016 and the defendant sold the fish between the time of their arrival and the execution of a search warrant by wildlife agents five months later, according to the government.
When federal agents searched Vu's home on Oct. 5, 2016, they found four dead arowanas in a freezer and two live black-breasted turtles.
Prosecutors said Vu sold arowana fish over the internet for $1,900 apiece and pocketed between $650 to $1,000 for Asian turtles, depending on the species.
"The motivation was money,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Silber told the court.