4 plead guilty in federal court to helping smuggle turtles in candy wrappers


COLUMBIA (AP) - Four men have pleaded guilty in federal court to taking part in an international wildlife smuggling operation that involved hiding rare turtles in candy wrappers or socks.

The State reports 30-year-old Floridian Matthew Harrison Kail and South Carolinians 29-year-old Joseph Logan Brooks and 25-year-old Matthew Tyler Fischer pleaded guilty Wednesday to wildlife conspiracy charges. Fischer's father, 48-year-old William Martin Fischer, pleaded guilty that same day to wildlife trafficking.

Their pleas follow accused ringleader, 38-year-old Steven Verren Baker, pleading guilty in June to wildlife conspiracy and agreeing to assist prosecutors. The U.S. attorney's office in Columbia says traders in the United States and China exchanged turtles protected under international agreements. The smuggling ring involved placing turtles hidden in candy wrappers or socks into shipping containers labeled as snacks.