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Pennsylvania man sentenced for turtle trafficking

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Malaclemys terrapin

 David Sommers, 64, of Levittown, Pennsylvania, was sentenced in August 2019 to six months imprisonment and to pay $250,000 in restitution for trafficking protected turtles in U.S. District Court.

Authorities said Sommers represented himself as a legitimate reptile breeder, when he was in fact endangering the lives of these animals and breaking the law..

From November 2011 until October 2017, Sommers poached thousands of protected diamondback terrapins and their eggs from coastal marshes in New Jersey and illegally sold the turtles. A grand jury indicted Sommers on July 10, 2018 for his criminal conduct involving the sale, export and false-labeling of packages containing protected diamondback terrapins. On Feb. 4, 2019, Sommers pleaded guilty to false-labeling of packages containing protected diamondback terrapins.

Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are a semi-aquatic species of turtle native to brackish waters in eastern and southern United States. They are not found in the wild in Pennsylvania, where Sommers resided, but have a dwindling habitat range in neighboring New Jersey. The terrapins are prized in the reptile pet trade for their unique, diamond-shaped shell markings. The turtles are protected under New Jersey law and by an international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

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Florida couple indicted for cobra mounts, babirusa skull

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 We were too busy in July and missed this one from the U.S. Department of Justice: 

An indictment was unsealed in July (2019) from a federal grand jury sitting in Tampa, Florida, charges Novita Indah, 48, and Larry Malugin, 51, of Port Richey, Florida, with conspiracy and trafficking in protected wildlife. The indictment charges the couple with smuggling wildlife from Indonesia to the United States and reselling the wildlife from their Florida home.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized approximately 369 wildlife articles from their home during the execution of search warrant on Jan. 12, 2017. The agents recovered assorted Javan spitting cobra, reticulated python, and monitor lizard mounts, belts, and wallets, as well as a babirusa skull. A babirusa is a rare Indonesian pig prized for its distinctive curving tusks.

The indictment alleges that beginning in 2011, Indah and Malugin sold wildlife on eBay from their Indonesian home to buyers across the world. They would smuggle the items to purchasers in the United States in packages falsely labeled to conceal their contents. Indah and Malugin continued to sell wildlife after they moved to Puerto Rico and ultimately Florida in 2013. All of the wildlife was protected by an international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

In addition to the seized wildlife, Indah and Malugin also trafficked in taxidermy mounts and bones of leopard cats, owls, and Southeast Asian primates, including slow loris, macaques, lutungs, and langurs.

From 2011 to 2017, Indah and Malugin made approximately 4,596 online sales of CITES-protected wildlife worth about $211,212. USFWS and Customs inspectors repeatedly seized packages shipped by the couple, but they continued to sell wildlife using various eBay and PayPal accounts. 

If convicted, Indah and Malugin face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ incarceration on the smuggling charges and five years for the Lacey Act violations. The indictment also seeks to forfeit the wildlife seized from their residence.

Smuggled bronze statue and relief returned to India

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photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

 
LONDON – A limestone carved relief and Navaneetha Krishna Bronze figure from India were repatriated to their home country. On Aug. 15, 2019, the High Commissioner of India in London accepted the return of the artifacts on behalf of India.

The artifacts are linked to one of the most prolific art smugglers in the world, who was recently charged in Manhattan, New York, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

An individual in the United Kingdom who possessed the items came forward to Homeland Security Investigations expressing a desire to surrender the pieces.

In June 2019, working with the Metropolitan Police Service, the individual turned over the artifacts to authorities. With the assistance of Indian Customs and an expert examination, the limestone relief is estimated to date from 1st Century BC to 1st Century AD, originating from Andhra Pradesh.

The bronze figure is estimated to date from 17th Century AD, originating from Tamil Nadu.

Both items will be examined by domain experts at a later date to establish their exact period and original location. The repatriated artifacts are just two of more than 2,600 antiquities that have been recovered around the world. The investigation remains ongoing.

Photo: Botanical Garden waterfall

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(c)2019 J.S.Reinitz

  
 Waterfall at the Des Moines Botanical Garden. (C)2019 J.S.Reinitz .

Photo: Pappajohn Sculpture Garden

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(c)2019 JS Reinitz

 
Photos of “Nomade” by Jaume Plensa at Pappajohn Sculpture Park in DesMoines. Below is from the museum’s entry on the piece:

Jaume Plensa describes individual letters as components that have little meaning on their own, but blossom into words, thoughts, and language when combined with other letters. Plensa’s letters offer a metaphor for human culture, in which a person alone has limited potential, but when formed into groups or societies, becomes stronger.

(c)2019

Photo: Face in the wall

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Metz, France. (c)1974 Roger D. Reinitz

 
An aside to the last post, here’s another photo taken in Metz, France, from my father’s archives.

Photos: Flea Market, Metz, France, early 1970s

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Metz Flea Market, (c)1974 Roger D. Reinitz

 
Photos (c) 1974, Roger D. Reinitz

Metz, a good-sized city on France’s northeast border, has a beautiful cathedral, the oldest working opera house in the country and other historical buildings.

But one of my favorite memories was the flea market, where one could by rabbits from a guy in raincoat or pick up World War II surplus

Here are some photos taken by my father in the 1970s. They aren’t good reproductions, I just photographed glossy prints.

 

(c)1974 Roger D. Reinitz

  

(c) 1974 Roger D. Reinitz

  

I admire the belt-fed bolt-action rifle. (c)1974 Roger D. Reinitz

  

(c)1974 Roger D. Reinitz

 

Coins returned to Greece

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photo of Greek coins on tiny easels. Courtesy HSI

 SAN FRANCISCO – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) repatriated 10 Greek coins to the Government of Greece, Tuesday, during a reception at the San Francisco Greek Consulate.

The 10 coins were allegedly smuggled out of various Aegean islands such as the Island of Samos. The island of Samos is not covered by modern structures and has a lot of open, unprotected fields. These unexcavated archaeological sites are subject to the illegal use of metal detectors by collectors who remove artifacts, such as coins, for unlawful sale and profit.

In late August 2016, HSI detained a FedEx package with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the FedEx facility in Memphis, Tennessee. The shipment originated from a Munich-based, online coin dealer with previous violations for selling suspicious antiquities. This shipment contained five coins.

According an analysis of data collected by the Customs and Border Protection Laboratory in San Francisco, the coins were determined to be authentic Ancient Greek artifacts.

In September 2016, Keller interviewed the buyer of the intercepted package. During this interview, the buyer informed Keller that he made a purchase from the same seller a few months earlier for five other coins. Subsequently, the previously purchased coins were also evaluated and found to be Greek artifacts.

All 10 coins are estimated to be dated as early as 600 BCE and were minted in various locations throughout the Aegean Islands.

According to Greek Cultural Heritage Law, artifacts in the ground within Greece are the property of the Government of Greece and are not allowed to be removed for reasons other than Archaeological study. The lack of provenance documents and the low price of the coins were facts that supported the assessment that the coins were smuggled out of Greece.

In July 2011, The U.S. and Greece entered in to a Bilateral Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding with Greece to restrict the importation of carious cultural property from the Upper Paleolithic Period (approximately 2,000 B.C) through the 15th century A.D.

On May 10, 2019, the Office of International Trade-Regulations Rulings issued a decision to transfer the forfeited coins to HSI for the purpose of repatriation to the Government of Greece.

Always time for Silly Mountain

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Silly Mountain, Arizona

 

Two hikes I’ve always wanted to do in the Phoenix area — Camelback and Flat Iron.

But my schedule was tight, and after touching down at the airport, I only had a few hours before hitting the road the following morning. Flat Iron is a grueling day-long trek on the Superstition Range, and Camelback is best as a morning hike.

Luckily, there is always time for Silly Mountain, a park on the east edge of Apache Junction with a mile or so of trails and a 2,100-foot peak with a 400-foot elevation gain.

I got there shortly before sunset and had great views.

Superstition Mountains, view from a Silly Mountain. (C)2019 J.S.Reinitz

The view from Silly Mountain. (C)2019 J.S.Reinitz

Dashcam: Arizon drive

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This spring, I had the pleasure of driving from the Southwest to the Midwest, passing fantastic landscapes, rusting remnants of civilization and temperatures that ranges from searing heat to blinding snow.

Until we got to the Midwest, then it was mostly flat farmland. Luckily, this portion was at night.
Unfortunately, my dashcam failed to capture most scenery (apparently the “on” button isn’t the same as the “record” button). The one stretch of the journey it did record was the route from Apache Junction to Miami, Arizona.

Photo: Cold weather kayaking

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“Spring” 2018

After about 20 minutes of hard paddling, my glasses began to fog up, obscuring the swift water. The kayak’s nose was a red blur in front of me with two smaller red blurs cycling on either side of me, my paddle blades trying to keep up with the current.

The plan had been to put in at the park and head upstream under the railroad bridge and then play around just below the dam in a relaxing fashion before drifting back down to the ramp. But just after launching, I realized how quick the water was moving, and the fight was on.

It was early in the morning, and everyone was at home asleep. It was cold, overcast windy. Ice formations clung to the rail bridge piers. 

It was spring break in the Midwest. Time to get out and enjoy kayaking.
In light snow.
 

There is a certain amount of dread that creeps in when you strain to push against the current and after several minutes, you glance to the side and see the shore and notice that with all your work you are only holding ground — like a big water sports treadmill.

After inching past the rail bridge, I cut to the right bank where I spotted a small cove with calm water. A wave washed into the cockpit, the icy water freezing my hip numb. So much for my plan to stay dry.

I slowly inched across, mindful of the strainer — a large toppled tree with all of its branches intact hanging in the water — immediately downstream. If I collided with the strainer, I would likely be knocked from the boat, forced underwater and held down by the power of the water rushing through the branches.

A flock of geese watched me drift into the cove exhausted. They flapped around and walked over to the bank as I landed on a sandbar.  

Photo: River ice

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