A former Arizona resident convicted in federal court in San Francisco in 2005 of participating in an international reptile smuggling ring lost part of his appeal today.
Beau Lee Lewis, 33, was convicted by a jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins in 2005 of one count of conspiracy and five counts of smuggling protected reptiles such as tortoises and pythons from Asia.
The smuggling ring was run by wildlife dealer Keng Liang “Anson” Wong, 52, of Penang, Malaysia, who pleaded guilty in 2001 to 40 counts and was sentenced to six years in prison. Wong has now completed his sentence and returned to Malaysia.
Lewis was sentenced by Jenkins to one year and 11 months in prison, but he has remained free while his appeals are pending.
In today’s ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Lewis’ claim that prosecutors should not have been allowed to seek a second indictment after the appeals court overturned a 2001 conviction because of trial delays.
The appeals court said the second indictment was justified because of the seriousness of the case, which was demonstrated by the fact that each of the counts on which Lewis was convicted carried a potential sentence of five years in prison.
But Lewis’ lawyer, Richard Tamor of Oakland, said the appeal would now continue on other claims pending before the circuit court.
“We’re going to pursue all avenues of his appeal,” Tamor said.
The defense attorney said the remaining appeal arguments include a contention that Jenkins gave incorrect jury instructions on Lewis’ claim that he was entrapped by an undercover federal wildlife agent.
Lewis now lives in California, Tamor said.
According to earlier court rulings in the case, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set up a shell company in 1994 in hopes of capturing Wong, who was suspected of being a kingpin in the smuggling of endangered species from Asia to the United States.
In 1995, Lewis, who was then 18 and ran a small reptile import and export business in Buckeye, Ariz., answered an advertisement from the shell company and began buying from the company reptiles that had been legally shipped by Wong.
Later, however, Lewis allegedly inquired to an undercover agent about buying a species of lizards protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and allegedly told the agent he was in contact with Wong. Lewis allegedly began eventually accepting illegal shipments of protected animals directly from Wong, according to the court documents.
Wong, Lewis and two other men were indicted in 1998, and Wong was arrested during a sting operation in Mexico City three days later. After an extradition fight, Wong was extradited to the United States in 2000.
In his first trial in 2001, Lewis was convicted of 17 felonies, including six counts of the illegal importation of shipments containing a total of 125 protected reptiles. The shipments were sent by FedEx, according to the indictment in the case. Prosecutors said many of the animals died in transit.
In his second trial in 2005, Lewis was convicted of five of the same six smuggling counts.