Feds say NYC ring helped smuggle animal intestines masked by rattlesnakes


Federal prosecutors say six New Yorkers have been helping smuggle and sell animal intestines from China and masking them in shipments of pet grooming tools and packaged rattlesnakes.

The alleged scheme involved defendants Ming Huang Chen, Hangming Fang, Runhua Hou, Hangtin Lin, Shanqing Ou and Minghao Lin conspiring to bring in raw duck and goose intestines, as well as products containing duck blood from unapproved establishments in China, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General in federal court in Brooklyn.

The vast majority of the defendants are Brooklyn residents, with one, Minghao Lin, living in Queens. They’re being charged with unlawfully importing merchandise into the United States and engaging in a scheme to buy, sell, conceal and facilitate the transportation of the illegal goods. Each person faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Each shipment contained thousands of pounds of illegal imports. Many of them were shipped to New York City after first landing in Los Angeles, according to prosecutors. From there, four of the defendants — Chen, Hou, Hangting Lin and Minghao Lin — are accused of transporting goods to wholesalers, including Ou and Fang, who sell them to customers including restaurants in the New York area.

“In some packages, the products were also concealed beneath packaged rattlesnakes,” reads the complaint, which included a picture of what appeared to be snake parts wrapped neatly inside a box.

The products were allegedly mislabeled to conceal their true contents. One illegal poultry shipment from August 2022 was marked as having “1,966 cartons of pet grooming tool pet nail clippers” manufactured in Japan, per the complaint.

It’s unclear how much cash the scheme reaped as a whole, but one visit last June to wholesaler Chu Food — allegedly operated by Fang — had roughly “6,496 pounds of 12 illegal goose, duck, pork and beef merchandise, the current street value of which is estimated at approximately $147,300,” the complaint reads.

Duck and goose intestines are features of some Chinese dishes, including hot pot. Duck blood is also used in Chinese cuisine as well as other parts of the world, including the making of czernina soup in Poland.

The alleged scheme took place between May 2022 and August 2023, according to the complaint.

Attorneys for most of the defendants did not immediately return requests for comment. Lawyers for Ou and Minghao Lin declined to comment.



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