Chinese woman facing charge of trying to smuggle turtles across Vermont lake to Canada

A woman from China has been arrested at a Vermont lake bordering Quebec for trying to smuggle 29 eastern box turtles, a protected species, into Canada by kayak, according to Border Patrol agents.

Wan Yee Ng was arrested on the morning of June 28 at an Airbnb in Canaan as she was about to get into an inflatable kayak with a duffle bag on Lake Wallace, according to an agent's affidavit filed in federal court. Agents had been notified by Royal Canadian Mounted Police that two other people, including a man who was believed to be her husband, had started to paddle an inflatable watercraft from the Canadian side of the lake toward the United States, according to an agent's affidavit.

The agents searched her heavy duffle bag and found 29 live eastern box turtles individually wrapped in socks, the affidavit states. Eastern box turtles are known to be sold on the Chinese black market for $1,000 each, according to the affidavit.

Ng is charged with attempting to export the turtles from the U.S., in violation of the Endangered Species Act. A federal judge on Friday ordered that she remain detained. The federal public defender's office, which is representing her, declined to comment.

Border Patrol agents first spotted Ng at the Airbnb rental in May when they noticed a vehicle with Ontario plates traveling on a Vermont road in Canaan in an area used by smugglers, they said. Lake Wallace has been used for human and narcotic smuggling, the affidavit states. The vehicle had entered the U.S. in Alburgh, Vermont, agents said.

Ng was admitted to the United States in May on a visitor visa with an intended destination of Fort Lee, New Jersey, the affidavit states. Border Patrol agents learned on June 18 that she had again entered the U.S. in Buffalo in a vehicle with a Quebec plate and was expected to arrive at the same Airbnb on Lake Wallace in Vermont on June 25, the affidavit states. They then started to surveil the property.