Second man sentenced in Milwaukee in reptile smuggling syndicate

MILWAUKEE – A second man faces prison time on charges of smuggling exotic turtles, tortoises and other animals obtained from a Thai supplier for sale in the United States and Europe. 

Reid Turowski, owner of Captive Bred Specialties in Waukesha, was sentenced Friday to 10 months in prison. He also must pay a $500 fine and serve two years on probation after his prison term.

“I feel like a failure,” Turowski told US District Judge Lynn Adelman at his sentencing. “I worked so hard on this business, day and night, and it comes down to where I just threw it all away.”

Turowski, 29, pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to smuggle animals, a felony.

He met his supplier, Leong Tian Kum, 34, of Thailand over the Internet, according to prosecutors.

Kum sent the animals to Wisconsin via Federal Express. The boxes were labeled as wooden handicrafts, toys, clothing or stuffed animals. Many of the rare reptiles died in transit.

The animals included Indian Star tortoises, Hermann’s tortoises and pancake tortoises, which are subject to strict government guidelines for importing.

For example, Indian Star tortoises, which can sell for $800 each, may not legally be removed from their native India.

Turowski also imported snake-necked turtles, fly river turtles, Borneo black leaf turtles and Chinese water dragons, the Southeast Asian equivalent of green iguanas, which can be brought into the country legally.

However, he did not declare the animals to the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection or subject them to inspection by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, both of which are required by law, according to court records.

Turowski received a far lesser sentence than Kum, who was sentenced to 41 months in prison last month.

Federal investigators said that when they went through his e-mails for information about animal trafficking, they found messages detailing plans to smuggle prostitutes from Thailand into Singapore.

Kum was arrested in 2003 when he went to Florida looking for more customers. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to smuggle animals and money laundering in November.

Federal officials seized many of the surviving animals and have relocated them to a zoo in Minnesota, according to court documents.

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