(CN) – A Texas-based Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty on Tuesday to trying to buy Tanzanian leopard tortoises and have them shipped to the United States in violation of federal law. Leopard tortoises are protected by international treaty.
Prosecutors said that in 2006 Rene Soliz, based in Alice, Texas, asked a tortoise seller in Dar-Es Salaam to sell him eight leopard tortoises. Soliz told the dealer that he would buy more animals later, according to court documents.
A month later, a Customs inspector at JFK Airport intercepted Soliz’s package, which was labeled as containing 50 live scorpions. But the inspector found 14 live tortoises and one dead one.
Leopard tortoises are listed in Appendix II of CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Appendix II lists species that are not immediately threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled.
International trade in Appendix II species is legal with an export permit from the exporting country. No export permit accompanied Soliz’s tortoises.
Soliz faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.