Westminster man gets probation for smuggling aquarium fish and turtles worth thousands of dollars
A Westminster man who smuggled a half-dozen of what are considered the world’s most expensive aquarium fish, as well as more than a dozen turtles, was sentenced Monday to three years of probation.
Kevin Duc Vu, who last year pleaded guilty to a felony charge of illegally importing wildlife, must serve 15 months of his probation under house arrest with electronic monitoring, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Vu admitted to smuggling arowana fish, which authorities say are believed to be the world’s most expensive aquarium fish. The protected fish are considered symbols of luck and prosperity in parts of Asia.
In September 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials intercepted a package addressed to Vu’s wife that contained the six arowanas, as wells as seven big-headed turtles, seven four-eyed turtles, six Asian box turtles and one black-breasted turtle, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The next month, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials searched Vu’s home and found two black-breasted turtles and four dead arowanas that had been hidden in a freezer, prosecutors said.
In all, officials said, Vu could have gotten $60,000 for the seized wildlife.
Federal officials believe that Vu had ordered the fish and turtles from an overseas supplier. Prosecutors said he had in the past sold arowanas for $1,900 apiece, big-headed turtles for $850, and a pair of black-breasted turtles for $2,000.
Vu’s arrest was part of “Operation Jungle Book,” an initiative targeting wildlife smuggling by various individuals that resulted in federal charges against 16 people. Among the animals alleged to have been smuggled was a tiger, monitor lizards, cobras and exotic songbirds.