Puerto Rican pleads guilty in $1M coral trafficking case

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The owner of a saltwater aquarium business in Puerto Rico has pleaded guilty to illegally trafficking up to $1 million worth of protected coral and other reef species.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Aristides Sanchez illegally sold native marine species including a popular one known as "polyps," which glow under UV light. Sanchez is alleged to have personally collected some of the specimens by using a chisel to collect chunks of reef while snorkeling off Rico.

He also is accused of using a fake name and falsely labeling at least 130 shipments sent from 2013 to 2016.

The federal courthouse in San Juan was closed Wednesday evening and it was not clear who may be Sanchez's legal representation. Sentencing is scheduled for December.

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