University professor pleads guilty to smuggling ivory

AP News
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Posted: Jan 13, 2016 5:30 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A college professor in Minnesota has pleaded guilty to illegally smuggling items made of elephant ivory from the United States to China.

St. Cloud State University philosophy professor Yiwei Zheng (EEE'-way Zeng) also admitted Wednesday that he illegally exported two rhinoceros horns in violation of the U.S. Lacey Act, which bans trade in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken or sold.

The 43-year-old agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and could face about three years in prison when he's sentenced in May.

Investigators say the items Zheng tried to smuggle in April 2011 were made of elephant ivory, including potted flower carvings and a carved lion.

Zheng's attorney says most of his client's items were antiques, but that Zheng is remorseful and knowingly didn't follow requirements to buy and transport some items.

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This story has been corrected to show Zheng is 43, not 44.