A man in New Jersey has pleaded guilty Tuesday to smuggling more than 1,000 box turtles from Oklahoma. He was ordered to pay $350,000 as penalty on top of his two years of probation.

William T. Gangemi, 26, of Freehold was sentenced in a federal court in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His penalty comprised of $250,000 restitution to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and a $100,000 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Gangemi was involved with a wildlife smuggling syndicate “where protected turtles were exchanged back and forth between the United States and China,” Trent Shores, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Oklahoma, said in a news release.

Gangemi was said to have orchestrated the purchase and transport of “three-toed and western (ornate) box turtles” from Oklahoma to New Jersey from May 1, 2017, to May 31, 2018, in a bid to yield financial profit which is a felony as per the Lacey Act [a U.S. law passed in 1900, that bans illegal trafficking of protected wildlife], the news release stated.

“This case is an excellent example of how state and federal law enforcement agencies work together to combat the illegal wildlife trade," Phillip Land, a special agent in charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said.

Box turtles reach sexual maturity when they are between the ages of 8 and 11 years. They tend to have high mortality rate as juveniles therefore poaching them can threaten their population severely. Colorful box turtles have high demand as pets in China, which can reap up to $20,000 for the poacher, APP reported, citing federal authorities.

Only one in 1,000 of the tiny loggerhead turtle hatchlings will survive
Only one in 1,000 of the tiny loggerhead turtle hatchlings will survive AFP / ARIS MESSINIS