ORANGEBURG, SC (WMBF) – Three South Carolina men and a North Carolina resident have been indicted by a federal grand jury on allegations they illegally smuggled protected turtles in and out of the U.S.
According to the indictment, filed Tuesday, Holly Hill resident Joseph Logan Brooks and Harleyville residents Matthew Tyler Fischer and William Martin Fischer, along with N.C. man Matthew Harrison Kail, "unlawfully, knowingly, and willfully did conspire, combine, confederate, and agree with each other to traffic in Protected Turtles"
The smuggling operation ran from January 2016 to around June 2016 and involved turtles shipped from Hong Kong in packages labeled as "snacks."
According to the indictment, the turtles were hidden in the packages by bags of noodles and small pieces of candy.
Another defendant, identified as Jason Hsu, would use Facebook to handle transactions involving the turtles that were shipped to and from Hong Kong.
Packages would be delivered to Brooks' home, as well as both Matthew and William Fischer's residence, the indictment states.
A number of packages delivered over the six-month period were valued between $117,200 and $409,250, "depending on the market," according to the indictment.
On May 29, 2016, Kail was arrested collecting two spotted turtles at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern N.C., court records state. He was allegedly in possession of two ornate diamondback turtles and $17,000 in cash.