Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Chaoyi Le, 28, of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with attempt to export and send from the United States, seven live ball pythons and three live albino western hog-nosed snakes, contrary to United States laws and regulations. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, who is handling the case, stated that on February 28, 2014, the defendant had an encounter with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel in Chicago, IL while traveling from Toronto, Ontario to Shanghai, China. Le was found to be in possession of 55 live reptiles, many afforded protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). CITES is a treaty providing protection to fish, wildlife, and plants that may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets. The live reptiles possessed by the defendant included 19 ball pythons, eight surinam horned frogs, two tiger leg tree frogs, four red eye tree frogs, five crested geckos, four giant day geckos, a fisher chameleon, and 10 Jackson’s chameleons. Le was charged at that time by Violation Notice and paid a $5,000 fine.
The defendant was subsequently stopped on April 22, 2014, while entering Canada from the United States. At that time, he had three live albino western hog-nosed snakes hidden within his socks. Le, who indicated that he intended to mail the reptiles to China, failed to report for his appearance in federal court in September of 2014. However, on August 11, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was notified that Le had boarded a flight from Shanghai, China, bound for Los Angeles, California. The defendant was arrested upon landing in California.
The criminal complaint is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the direction of Honora Gordon, Special Agent-in-Charge, Northeast Region: and the United States Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector-in-Charge Shelly Binkowski of the Boston Division.
Le made an initial appearance today in the Central District of California and will be returned to the Western District of New York at a later date.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.