black_rhino

Black rhino. File art.

Jacob Chait, 34, the head of acquisitions and auctioneer of a Beverley Hills, Calif., gallery and auction house, appeared in Manhattan federal court in New York to face charges of conspiring to smuggle rhinoceros horns, in violation of the Lacey Act on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

He is charged in a one-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury on Feb. 15.

According to the DOJ, allegations contained in the indictment include:

From approximately 2009 and 2012, Chait and his co-conspirators purchased rhinoceros horns and taxidermy mounts in the U.S. and sought to sell them to foreign buyers in private deals, including in at least eight separate deals or attempted deals involving 15 rhinoceros horns worth an estimated $2.4 million. This included one alleged incident in which Chait personally smuggled two endangered black rhino horns to China in his luggage. Rhinoceros horns are worth more per pound than gold due to the high demand in Asia and increasing scarcity of supply.

The trade in rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory have been restricted since 1976 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by over 180 countries around the world.

Chait is charged in one count of conspiring to smuggle rhinoceros horns and to violate the Lacey Act. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman, whom Chait will appear before on Februar 27.

On June 22, 2016, Joey Chait, the Senior Auction Administrator of Auction House #1, was sentenced by the Honorable J. Paul Oetken to one year and one day for conspiring to smuggle wildlife products made from rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and coral with a market value of at least $1 million, and to violate the Lacey Act.

This matter is part of Operation Crash, a continuing nation-wide crackdown by the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Justice on illegal trafficking in rhinoceros horns and other wildlife crimes.

Advertisements