A Florida man has been found guilty of smuggling rare turtles in candy wrappers and sentenced to a year in prison according to The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

The man, a resident of Pomona Park, a town east of Gainesville, pleaded guilty in September “to wildlife conspiracy charges after prosecutors said he received cash and foreign turtles as payment for providing American turtles to the ring’s leader in South Carolina.”

The turtle smuggling ring extended from South Carolina to Hong Kong, the paper reported.

The turtles he helped smuggle were worth more than $300,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Before the sentencing, there was an outcry from family and acquaintances of the Florida man who was born in New Jersey. He was “a kind boy” they said, “a compassionate young man” whose “long-time passion and interest in wildlife eventually put him crossways with the law” his defense attorney, John Delgado, said.

“Illegal wildlife trading is a worldwide problem as black market dealers seek animals and animal parts for sale as pets, trophies and food,” the paper said. Reptile trading is of special concern in the southeastern U.S. where demand for turtles is taking a toll on some species.

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