Turtle kingpin to serve 16 months in international scheme

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Prosecutors say a man who was a kingpin in an international scheme to traffic in rare turtles will become the first person to serve prison time in South Carolina for illegal wildlife smuggling.

The State reports 38-year-old Steven Verren Baker was sentenced to serve 16 months in federal prison Monday for his role in trading rare turtles on the black market. Baker pleaded guilty to wildlife trafficking last June. He originally faced up to five years in prison, but was given credit for helping authorities prosecute others.

Prosecutors say Baker regularly trafficked in rare turtles in a scheme that involved turtle dealers in New York, Hong Kong and the Carolinas. Authorities say the industry has imperiled South Carolina's native turtle species, which can fetch high prices in China.

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Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com