Man pleads guilty to smuggling turtle skins |

Man pleads guilty to smuggling turtle skins

DENVER (AP) ” A McAllen, Texas, man pleaded guilty Friday to smuggling exotic skins, including those from sea turtles, in an investigation that led to charges for a bootmaker to world leaders, including President Bush.

Oscar Cueva pleaded guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to smuggle protected sea turtle and other exotic skin and skin products, and to launder funds in support of that smuggling, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Cueva was one of 11 people indicted in August after a multiyear investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Chinese nationals Fu Yiner and Wang Hong, earlier this month pleaded guilty to smuggling charges.

Among those facing similar charges is Martin Villegas, a Mexican bootmaker to world leaders.

Before Mexican President Vicente Fox left office in December 2006, Villegas created a special brand of cowboy boot named after him, which was manufactured in Mexico’s shoemaking capital, Leon, in Fox’s home state of Guanajuato.

The Mexican bootmaker also produced footwear for Fox’s bodyguards, Cabinet members, relatives and friends ” including Bush, a fellow lover of ranchwear who accepted a pair of ostrich-skin cowboy boots as a gift during a visit to Fox’s ranch in 2001.

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