Skip to main content

MN professor admits smuggling ivory, rhino horns worth $1M

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

A philosophy professor at St. Cloud State University has admitted smuggling elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns worth an estimated $1 million from the United States.

United States Attorney Andrew Luger announced Wednesday Yiwei Zheng (also known as Steve Zheng), 43, of St. Cloud, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to smuggling the ivory out of the U.S. into China in April 2011, and exporting two rhino horns in July 2010.

His actions were in violation of the 1900 Lacey Act – the first federal law protecting wildlife – as well as the Endangered Species Act.

An email news release from Luger reveals Zheng operated an online business called "Crouching Dragon Antiques" and sold a variety of items through the business, including the ivory and horns.

Investigators closed in on him after a parcel being exported from the U.S. was stopped at a mail facility in Chicago in May 2011 and was traced back to Zheng after it was found to contain a number of elephant carvings.

In the customs declaration, Zheng had described the contents as "Chinese artifact: Desk decorative item" valued at $35.

It was later found Zheng had bought the ivory through eBay and the actual value of the items was just short of $7,000.

Investigators later uncovered Zheng had bought the rhino horns from someone in Florida for more than $20,000 and smuggled them out of the country to China, where they were sold at auction for $68,000.

During the course of the investigation, agents estimate the value of the ivory, horns and other products smuggled into and out of the country by Zheng at more than $1 million, with Zheng agreeing in his plea agreement that the fair market value was likely between $550,000 and $1.5 million.

He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-12-04 at 9.16.52 AM

Responding to Twitter release, former Minnesota GOP candidate calls for 'bullets'

It was in response to a thread on Twitter concerning the social media giant's moderation efforts regarding political issues.

snow

NWS: 'Safe to say' more active weather is ahead

Three rounds of light snow around Minnesota before more substantial precipitation becomes a possibility.

7F060B54-5776-4E1A-A42C-F36C22FAF493

Hero dad who stopped carjacker who fled with his kids identified

A GoFundMe has been set up to support Derek Gotchie and his family following the incident.

Screen Shot 2022-12-03 at 4.35.18 PM

Watch: New London-Spicer wins 3A championship on incredible walk-off TD

New London-Spicer defeated the unbeaten Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in remarkable circumstances.

MoorheadMurderSuspect

Suspect in woman's killing in Moorhead is arrested

James Kollie Jr. was arrested Friday evening.

Jennifer Carnahan

Former chair Jennifer Carnahan sues Minnesota GOP, which is suing her back

Carnahan stepped down under a cloud of controversy in August 2021.

Minneapolis Fire Department

One injured after leaping from burning vacant building in Minneapolis

Authorities say the building is known to be used by squatters.

ambulance

Head-on crash leaves two drivers dead in southeastern Minnesota

The crash happened in Houston County just before 4 p.m. Friday.

ConellHarris

Charges: Armed man made death threats at Minneapolis LGBTQ bar

The man allegedly used derogatory terms while threatening to kill someone.

image

FDA pulls last COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment as new variants rise

A therapy used to treat more than 11,000 Minnesotans is no longer authorized amid a surge in the latest COVID-19 variants.

Austin Robert LeClaire

Charges: Plymouth man shot girlfriend in head after birthday party

The 23-year-old victim is in critical condition as of Friday.

Related

Minnesota group reaches goal to help famine-stricken Horn of Africa

Feed My Starving Children set a goal of sending five million meals to the famine-stricken Horn of Africa. This week, KARE 11 reports they've reached that goal and doubled it.