Endangered Species

Sea Cucumber Smuggler Sentenced to 8 Months in Jail

Sea Cucumber
Flickr Creative Commons/Brittgow

A woman from Tijuana was sentenced Tuesday to eight months in jail for smuggling endangered sea cucumbers into the U.S. from Mexico, the office of the U.S. District Attorney Southern District of California said.

Claudia Castillo, 49, was also ordered to pay $12,000 restitution to the government of Mexico along with her sentence.

Castillo previously pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to smuggle and illegally import sea cucumbers of the species Isostichopus fuscus into the U.S. from Mexico between January 19, 2018, and September 4, 2019.

Castillo had obtained bags containing approximately 2 kg of sea cucumbers from others in Mexico and would either smuggle the packages into the U.S. herself or deliver the packages to others she recruited to also smuggle them into the U.S. She directed individuals to deliver the sea cucumbers to a self-storage unit near the border in San Ysidro where the cucumbers could be accessed by others for further transportation and sale.

The sea cucumbers are listed as endangered species and in order to transport these species into the U.S., the importer must comply with Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and its regulations which Castillo did not.

The fair market value of the sea cucumbers illegally imported was between $40,000 and $95,000.

“Illegal trafficking in fish and wildlife is big business,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer.  “We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to protect endangered wildlife.”

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