Monroe turtle trafficker gets year in prison

SEATTLE — A Monroe turtle trafficker has been sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to a federal conspiracy.

Nathaniel Swanson owned two reptile stores, including Swanee’s Exotics in Monroe. Prosecutors said that for four years he worked with others to smuggle domestic turtle species to Hong Kong and Asian species into the U.S.

Seattle U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan says the turtles had their legs taped inside their shells to keep them from arousing suspicion by moving during shipment, and many died during or soon after transport.

Two co-defendants have been prosecuted, including a Hong Kong citizen who lives in the U.S.

Most of the illegally trafficked turtles were protected under international law. They included the black-breasted leaf turtles and the critically endangered Arakan forest turtle.

The turtles that survived and were seized have been cared for at zoos and wildlife centers. As part of his sentence, the 36-year-old Swanson must share in the $28,500 cost of caring for them.

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