Crime & Courts

Ringleader of SC-based international turtle smuggling ring behind bars -- again

Spotted turtle
Spotted turtle NY State Department of Conservation

A turtle trafficker is back behind bars after pleading guilty for the second time in three years to the crime, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Steven Verren Baker, 38, of Holly Hill, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to smuggle wildlife after he was caught shipping protected turtles back and forth from Hong Kong to the U.S., according to the statement.

Baker, who was called the ringleader of the smuggling operation, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2015 for turtle trading after he sold spotted turtles to undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services agents. He was sentenced to three years probation for the smuggling and weapons charges.

The turtles smuggled by Baker were protected by international agreements, according to the statement.

Using Facebook, Baker would set up turtle sales, shipping the turtles to their new destinations using the U.S. Postal Service, according to the statement. Officials intercepted some of the turtles at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Baker now faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

SC turtle smuggling ring made a lot of money in illegal trafficking, feds say. Here are some of the turtles involved.