Professor accused of smuggling elephant ivory

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — A St. Cloud State University philosophy professor was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiring to smuggle rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory out of the United States and into China.

Yiwei Zheng, who appeared in U.S. District Court Tuesday, faces a federal indictment accusing him of conspiracy, smuggling and making a false statement to agents. Zheng also is charged with violating the federal Lacey Act, which bans trade in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken, transported or sold.

Zheng, who has taught at St. Cloud State since 1999, was arrested by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents in St. Cloud, the Star Tribune reported. Zheng appeared in court, surrendered his passport and was released on $25,000 unsecured bond, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.

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An email sent to Zheng’s defense attorney for comment was not immediately returned Tuesday. A university spokesman said he can’t comment due to the investigation.

The indictment alleges Zheng conspired with two unnamed co-conspirators in a scheme that ran from 2006 through 2011. The two co-conspirators are not named as defendants.