A Virginia antiques dealer who once bragged that selling illegally imported sawfish blades was worth the risk because it would bring in more money has been ordered to forfeit $275,000 and faces possible prison time. 

Here are the details from the U.S. Department of Justice:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The owner of an antiques and specialty shop in Middleburg pleaded guilty Dec. 19, 2018, to violating the Lacey Act by illegally selling and transporting between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of items made from endangered species, migratory birds, and other wildlife.

According to court documents, Keith Foster, 60, of Upperville, was the owner of The Outpost LLC. The Outpost specialized in selling foreign-sourced merchandise, a portion of which included wildlife products made from endangered species such as crocodiles, sea turtles, and sawfish. To evade enforcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Foster relied on a shipping company to falsify import records in order to hide wildlife items and avoid inspection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other law enforcement officials.

According to court documents, on numerous occasions beginning in December 2016, Foster discussed with a customer the unlawful nature of his conduct, including telling a customer it was illegal to import sawfish blades but he was going to continue to smuggle them, saying, “Rest assured, I’m gonna bring more in. Cause I’m the only fool in the States that probably wants to risk it.”

During March and April 2017, Foster imported over 100 undeclared wildlife items, including items protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) such as sea turtle shell, sawfish blades, crocodile skin bags, coral, and mounted birds of prey. CITES is an international treaty that provides protection to fish, wildlife and plant populations that are or could be harmed as a result of trade and restricts the international trade and transport of species that are threatened with extinction.

According to court documents, on April 12, 2017, Foster showed a customer numerous wildlife pieces for sale, including sawfish blades, turtle shell, ivory, zebra hide, crocodile, and various birds and bird parts. Foster told the customer about smuggling wildlife, about lacking the proper CITES permits to purchase, export, and later import some protected wildlife, and about the dangers of being caught by United States Customs. The customer then purchased numerous wildlife items including sawfish blades, a mounted barn owl, and a jar made from sea turtle shell, all of which were previously smuggled by The Outpost. The customer was in fact an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent.

As part of his plea agreement, Foster and The Outpost forfeited $275,000 and over 175 items made from wildlife, which were previously smuggled and being offered for sale.

Foster pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act and faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison when sentenced on March 8, 2019.

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