Malaysian men guilty of smuggling orangutan skulls into Oregon - KPTV - FOX 12

Malaysian men guilty of smuggling orangutan skulls into Oregon

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Two Malaysian men pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle wildlife parts, including orangutan skulls, into Oregon.

Eoin Ling Churn Yeng, 35, and Galvin Yeo Siang Ann, 33, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Portland on Wednesday.

Investigators said they smuggled five orangutan skulls and nine other protected wildlife species, including bear claws and macaque skulls, into Oregon between 2008 and 2015.

The investigation began in 2013 when a routine search of an international package revealed a helmeted hornbill mandible that was being shipped to a home in Forest Grove.

Helmeted hornbills are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched an undercover operation named "Operation Pongo." It revealed that Ling and Yeo were co-owners of an online business that had smuggled $95,000 worth of endangered wildlife into the U.S. since 2004, according to the Department of Justice.

In 2015, Ling and Yeo traveled to Portland to meet an associate, according to investigators, and they were arrested shortly after their arrival.

After pleading guilty Wednesday, Ling and Yeo were sentenced to six months in prison and $25,000 in fines. They were also ordered to perform 240 hours of community service and will be required to serve one year of supervised release after their prison term.  

“I commend all the agencies that played a role in this successful investigation and prosecution,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Chief Edward Grace. “Orangutans are one of the rarest great ape species on Earth, and the desire to possess a skull from one as tourist art or trophy in someone's collection will not be tolerated. The Service will continue to fully investigate and bring to justice those individuals who continue to perpetrate criminal acts involving orangutans and other protected wildlife species.”

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