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South Carolina man pleads guilty to turtle smuggling, again

Steven Verren Baker (Charleston County Detention Center)

A Holly Hill man pleaded guilty Wednesday to being the ringleader of an international wildlife smuggling ring.

Prosecutors say Steven Verren Baker, 38, organized the shipping of protected turtles between Asia and the United States.

Court documents showed Baker would buy protected turtles from Hong Kong and sell them in the U.S. Baker also sold protected turtles from the U.S. in Asia, prosecutors say.

Records show the deals were made over Facebook messages between January and June of 2016, and the turtles were shipped through the U.S. Postal Service.

Senior Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr., said Baker's sentencing will happen later. Baker faces up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

This is the second time he has pleaded guilty to turtle trafficking. His arrest record shows a conviction for wildlife smuggling in 2014, when he was caught trying to sell turtles to an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent.

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