The Associated Press
Article Launched: 04/18/2008 05:47:22 PM PDT
SAN FRANCISCO?A Bay Area pair couple admitted in federal court to trying to illegally import a real, stuffed tiger into the United States.
The pair pleaded guilty to one charge each of trying to import an endangered species without proper permits in exchange for prosecutors dropping more serious smuggling charges.
Nicki Phung, 31, and Steven Tieu, 38, are both expected to be sentenced to probation. Each have agreed to pay $5,000 to a nonprofit dedicated to protecting wild cats. Their plea deals were announced Friday.
The two were caught in December when a U.S. Customs official at San Francisco International Airport inspected a box labeled “toy tiger” mailed from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and bound for the couple’s home in Hercules, Calif.
Phung’s attorney Geoffrey Rotwein said the mounted tiger was meant as a gift and that the couple never intended to sell it.
“They feel really bad about what they did,” Rotwein said. He said the couple don’t know who the gift giver was and didn’t know until “late in the game” that they were to receive a stuffed tiger.
“They kind of got duped into this,” Rotwein said. “They didn’t really what they were getting into.”
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