A Worcester man has pleaded guilty to unlawfully importing and exporting salamanders and turtles, the Office of U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling announced today.

Nathan Boss, 27, admitted to two counts of smuggling wildlife into the United States, two counts of smuggling wildlife out of the United States, and making a false statement to a federal agent. He'll be sentenced at a later date.

According to a local news source, customs agents in 2017 intercepted a package of dead newts at JFK airport in New York. The package, addressed to Boss, was labeled as containing a "porcelain pallet." Two weeks later, Boss was caught sending other amphibians — box turtles, newts and black lizards — to an address in Hong Kong. The animals were alive, wrapped in socks, and divided among several plastic tubs. The package was declared as "hand-carved figurines."

Lelling's office said investigators intercepted a package from Hong Kong that was addressed to “Shelton Boss” on Mildred Avenue in Worcester. The package contained four black-breasted leaf turtles, a species named in the Convention for Trade in Endangered Species and Wild Fauna, an international agreement. Specifically, any such turtle imported into the U.S. must be declared and approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Boss on multiple occasions illegally exported wildlife to Hong Kong and Sweden. Boss was also found to have illegally imported a disallowed species of salamander that can carry a fungal disease.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman scheduled sentencing for Sept. 24. Boss was arrested and charged by criminal complaint in October 2019 and indicted a month later.

The charges provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Ryan Noel, Special Agent in Charge, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement made the announcement. Assistance with the investigation was provided by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Massachusetts Environmental Police and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadine Pellegrini of Lelling’s Criminal Division is prosecuting the case.

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