SAN DIEGO — Two people accused of illegally trafficking sea cucumbers at the Calexico Port of Entry pleaded guilty in federal court this week, federal prosecutors said.

Zunyu Zhao (also known as Kathy Zhao), 51, and Xionwei Xiao (also known as Luis Xiao), 52, pleaded guilty to a two-count indictment charging them with conspiracy and illegal importation of sea cucumbers, Kelly Thornton with the Office of the United States Attorney Southern District of California said in a news release Wednesday.

From May 9, 2017 to February 10, 2019, Zhao and Xiao conspired to illegally import Isostichopus Fuscus, commonly known as the brown sea cucumber, per the indictment and plea agreement. Isostichopus Fuscus are a species protected under Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species without the appropriate permits and documentation, according to officials.

“In May 2017, Zhao was stopped at the Calexico Port of Entry, attempting to smuggle 11.50 kg of Isostichopus Fuscus sea cucumbers. In February 2019, Zhao was stopped once again at the Calexico Port of Entry with 2 kg of undeclared Isostichopus Fuscus sea cucumbers,” Thornton said.

Prosecutors claimed Zhao and Xiao messaged each other with texts and images of other sea cucumber transactions between 2017 and 2019. Zhao confirmed to Xiao each shipment that she smuggled into the U.S., the Southern District of California said.

A sealed indictment was issued against both Zhao and Xiao during a grand jury in San Diego on May 23, officials said. Then on June 9, Xiao was arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border while Zhao was arrested four days later.

“The parties agreed that the fair market value of Isostichopus Fuscus sea cucumbers is $435/kg, and the total value of the sea cucumbers trafficked during the conspiracy was $10,222.50,” Thornton said.

Zhao and Xiao also agreed to pay restitution to the Mexican governmental entity in charge of protecting the environment known as Procuraduria Federal de Proteccion al Ambiente.

Xiao’s sentencing is set for Sept. 29, while Zhao is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 11.

Both defendants are charged with conspiracy, which is a penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 fine, and importation contrary to law, which is 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine, according to prosecutors.