This week, authorities charged one man in connection with trafficking rhino horns while another man pleaded to similar charges. Below are the Department of Justice releases on the cases:

New Hampshire Man Charged with Passing Fraudulent Documents in Connection with His Sale of Rhino Horns
Nov. 7, 2013

Ari B. Goldenberg, 46, of Milton, N.H., was charged today with trafficking in and making a false record for illegally selling a black rhinoceros head mount to an undercover U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service special agent.

The indictment is a result of a nationwide effort led by the FWS and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horns.

The indictment alleges that Goldenberg, seeking to profit from the sale of a black rhinoceros head mount he acquired for less than $1,000, illegally sold the mount to an undercover special agent of the FWS Office of Law Enforcement for $35,000. The indictment also charges Goldenberg with providing the undercover agent with a falsified receipt for the sale of the mount.

Irish National Pleads to Crimes Relating to Illegal Trafficking of Endangered Rhinoceros Horns
Nov. 5, 2013

Michael Slattery Jr., 25, an Irish national, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in relation to illegal rhinoceros horn trafficking, announced Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, and Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Slattery pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Under the terms of the plea agreement, any proceeds from the illegal trafficking that remain in the United States will be forfeited or put toward the criminal fine. Slattery is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 10, 2014.

In the plea agreement, Slattery admitted that he, along with others, traveled throughout the United States to illegally purchase and sell endangered rhinoceros horns. Slattery was arrested in September as part of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide, multi-agency crackdown on those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horn.

According to the information, plea agreement and statements made during court proceedings:

Beginning in May 2 On Thursday, November 14, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will destroy some six tons of elephant ivory seized over the years by its special agents and wildlife inspectors in connection with violations of U.S. wildlife laws and treaties.

More than 30,000 elephants are killed each year for the illegal ivory trade. Elephant poaching is at its highest level in decades and it continues to rise. These animals are being slaughtered across Africa to meet an insatiable global demand for ivory. Scores of the park rangers who work to protect them have also been killed.

We’re sending a message to ivory traffickers and their customers that the United States will not tolerate this illegal trade. We’re standing with nations that have already destroyed their illegal ivory and showing our commitment to working with partners around the world to stop this trafficking and save elephants. 010 and continuing until April 2011, Slattery, along with others, traveled within the United States to purchase rhinoceros horns, which he, along with others, then resold to private individuals or consigned to auction houses in the United States. The profits from the sale of the rhinoceros horns were distributed via cashier’s checks made out to Slattery and others. Slattery used a fictitious “Endangered Species Bill of Sale” in connection with the purchase and sale of rhinoceros horns.

In September 2010, Slattery, along with others, traveled from London to Houston, where they attempted to purchase a taxidermied black rhinoceros mount with two horns from a business in Austin, Texas. The manager of the business refused to sell the mount to the defendant because Slattery and the others did not have proof that they resided in the State of Texas. Within days of being refused, Slattery returned to the establishment in Austin, where, with the assistance of a “straw buyer” that Slattery and his co-conspirators hired, the group purchased the mount for $18,000. At the time of the sale, the purchasers were given an “Endangered Species Bill of Sale” that stated “[s]eller expressly states that the described taxidermy is an endangered species and that interstate or foreign sales, barter and trade are strictly prohibited …. [p]ursuant to [the Endangered Species Act]. Buyer has expressly stated that he/she is a current resident of the State of Texas and has no intention of participating in any form of interstate commerce involving the described taxidermy.”

Following the purchase of the mount, Slattery and his co-conspirators traveled to Flushing, N.Y., where they sold the horns from the mount and other horns they had acquired to an individual for $50,000. At the time of the sale, Slattery and his co-conspirators provided the purchaser with a false and fictitious “Endangered Species Bill of Sale.” The “Endangered Species Bill of Sale” stated that the two pair of black rhinoceros horns were purchased in August 2010. The falsified document also included a false and fictitious FWS emblem, which it did not have at the time of purchase from the establishment in Texas. Pursuant to instructions from Slattery and his co-conspirators, the purchaser paid for the horns with cashier’s checks. One check in the amount of $12,500 was made payable to Michael Slattery Jr.

Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a treaty signed by over 170 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets. Nevertheless, the demand for rhinoceros horn and black market prices have skyrocketed in recent years due to the value that some cultures have placed on ornamental carvings, good luck charms or alleged medicinal purposes, leading to a decimation of the global rhinoceros population.

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