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June 2022


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Tag: Endangered Species Act

Calif. Woman Pleads Guilty to Selling Endangered Sea Turtle Guitar Picks

A hawksbill sea turtle, an endangered species

A hawksbill sea turtle, an endangered species

By Brian Schott
China has a well-known taste for trading in strange and exotic animal parts. Bear bile. Rhinoceros horn. But endangered sea turtle guitar picks?

Qing Song, a Santa Rosa, Calif., woman, pleaded guilty Wednesday in San Francisco federal court  to violating the Lacey Act by importing from China guitar picks and turtle shells of the hawksbill sea turtle.

Song admitted to selling just 50 of the offending plectrums,  but was found in possession of 900 of them when authorities got wind of her unusual business, according to a Department of Justice press release.

Hawksbill sea turtles are one of seven sea turtle species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act or international treaty, according to the release. Hawksbills are rated as critically endangered – one step above being considered extinct in the wild, according to the World Conservation Union’s rankings of endangered species.

Right after pleading guilty, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer sentenced Song to  10 months of home confinement and a $2,000 fine. She also received received three years probation and was ordered not to sell sea turtle parts, including guitar picks or instruments made of sea turtles, according to the release.

Dead Butterflies and Federal Prison?

By Allan Lengel

Michigan Dentist Kevin Rucinski may have the butterflies when he gets sentenced in federal court in Bay City later this year. And for good reason.

The affable dentist in the quaint little Northern Michigan community of Roscommon pleaded guilty earlier this month to violating the Endangered Species Act by buying rare dried insects including butterflies, spiders and beetles from overseas on eBay and failing to file a declaration for Importation or Exportation of Fish and Wildlife and failing to pay importation fees that amounted to more than $5,000, according to his guilty plea in federal court in Bay City, Mi.

He faces $20,000 in fines and restitution and a possible prison sentence of up to a year.

Imagine, if he goes off to prison and turns to a killer/drug trafficker and tells the guy what he’s in for.

Funny thing is Rucinski was busted once before for importing dead dried butterflies and fined.

But after that, he kept buying those dang insects and violating federal law, according to a plea agreement drawn up the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, the friendly dentist only wanted to say that he was a collector of the insects. He declined to comment further for the story.

According to his guilty plea agreement , the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had intercepted a UPS package in January 2006 addressed to Rucinski. The package had come from Hong Kong and contained imported dead butterflies in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

At the time, he was given a violation notice, fined $225 and directed to a website to learn about the laws and regulations regarding the import of fish and wildlife, a court document said.

“Nevertheless, Ruckinski continued to buy and import dried insects, including butterflies ….spiders, beetles, and mollusk shells”, the court document said.

Between Oct. 2005 and November 2006, he made over 1,000 successful bids for such items on eBay. Sometimes he paid $150 for a single, dried butterfly, the court document said.

In all, he paid $15,000 for the wildlife shipments and evaded fees and licensing that would have cost him in excess of $5,000, the court document said. Under the plea agreement, he is expected to pay a $15,000 fine and $5,000 in restitution. The sentencing guidelines range between 6 to 12 months, but it’s unclear whether the judge will will send him off to prison.  No sentencing date has been set.

Read Guilty Plea Agreement