PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - Two Malaysian men accused of smuggling orangutan skulls and other animal parts into the United States pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that carry five years in prison and $500,000 fines.
Eoin Ling Churn Yeng, 35 and Galvin Yeo Siang Ann, 33, spent a decade selling orangutan and macaque skulls, turtle shells, bear claws, and other animal parts to buyers in the United States, in violation of the Endangered Species Act and The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, according to the indictment. The government claims the duo labeled the shipments as "crafts for decoration."
Prosecutors say Ling and Yeo got caught when they sold several shipments through their Malaysian-based company, Borneo Artifact, to an Oregon buyer whose package was stopped in customs.
Confronted by federal agents, the buyer handed over emails from Ling and Yeo and told officials about other animal parts Ling and Yao had sent him, according to an affidavit filed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent Paul Montuori.
The informant told Montuori he paid Ling and Yeo $14,000 for 16 shipments of protected animal parts over six years, according to the affidavit.
Appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman on Monday, both men pleaded not guilty. Ling and Yeo are awaiting their four-day trial, set to begin May 6. They are not in federal custody, but are under supervision by federal marshals using GPS monitoring.
Fidel Cassiano DuCloux, attorney for Ling and Yeo, said he couldn't comment on pending litigation.
U.S. Attorney Ryan Bounds, who is prosecuting the case, said the smuggling of wild animal parts is a serious problem - and we may only be aware of the tip of the iceberg.
"It's hard to know how big it is because we only know what we encounter," Bounds told Courthouse News.
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