St. Cloud professor charged with smuggling elephant ivory, rhinoceros horns


By Kari Petrie, St. Cloud Times

Date Published
A St. Cloud State University professor has been charged in federal court with smuggling rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory.Yiwei Zheng has been a philosophy professor at St. Cloud State since 1999. On March 18, he was charged with smuggling and making false statements. The indictment was sealed until Tuesday.
Zheng was arrested Tuesday by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents in St. Cloud. Zheng appeared in court, surrendered his passport and was released on $25,000 unsecured bond.
The document charging Zheng says he took part in smuggling from April 2006 through at least September 2011.
According to the document, Zheng and two others imported rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory out of the United States and into China. Zheng also smuggled objects containing horns into the United States from China, according to the document.
The document states that Zheng participated in online and other auctions in the United States to locate, purchase, transport and receive objects. A dozen incidents are listed in the charging document as when Zheng participated in the smuggling of items.
Zheng is also charged with lying to federal authorities. He told them he sold some items to a man at a McDonald’s restaurant in St. Cloud, according to the document, when he really sent them to China.
Trade in rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora since 1976. It was implemented in the United States under the Endangered Species Act.
Species protected under the act cannot be legally exported from or imported to the United States without prior approval from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Zheng grew up in Shanghai, China and is a naturalized citizen of the United States.