MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — A St. Cloud State University philosophy professor has pleaded guilty to illegally smuggling items made of elephant ivory from the United States to China.

Forty-three-year-old Yiwei Zheng also pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating the federal Lacey Act, which bans trade in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken or sold.

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Zheng was indicted last year on multiple counts related to the smuggling of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns.

The items Zheng tried to smuggle to China in April 2011 include potted flower carvings, a fan and a carved lion all made of elephant ivory.

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“This is another significant case which documents the extent of global wildlife trafficking and the pressure it places on the world’s most rare and endangered animals,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Assistant Director for Law Enforcement Ed Grace. “These types of investigations remain the top priority for us as we carry out the President’s National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.”

If convicted, Zheng could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. He will be sentenced on May 9, 2015 in Minneapolis.

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