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Wolf update: Reward offered for info

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IMG_0479-0MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY – Park service officials are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in connection with the death of a wolf in Yellowstone National Park in April.

Last month, we told you about the injury and euthanization of a popular member of the member of the Canyon Pack.

Now the National Park Service said a study by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, has learned more about the injury.

According to the NPS:

Preliminary results from the necropsy of the Canyon Pack alpha female wolf showed that she suffered from a gunshot wound .. National Park Service law enforcement believes the wolf was shot on the north side of the park, near Gardiner, or near the Old Yellowstone Trail which is located in the park on the northern boundary. The incident likely occurred sometime between April 10 at 1 a.m. and April 11 at 2 p.m.

The wolf was one of three known white wolves in the park. She had at least 20 pups, 14 of which lived to be yearlings, according to the Park Service.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch (ISB), via the ISB Tip Line at 888-653-0009 or online at http://www.nps.gov/isb.

Helicopter rescue at Rocky

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Rocky Mountain National Park receives assistance from the Colorado High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Program to evacuate injured man from park. Courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park

 
Man Rescued From East Inlet Trail In Rocky Mountain National Park
May 6, 2017

At 8:30 p.m. Friday night, May 5, park rangers were contacted via cell phone about an incident on the East Inlet Trail on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the National Park Service. A 19-year-old man from Tennessee and two friends were backpacking in the area. They were roughly 3.5 miles from the trailhead, scrambling over steep terrain, boulders and downed trees when a large boulder fell on the man’s leg. The man’s friends were able to free him from under the rock.

Search and Rescue Team members reached the man at approximately 11:30 p.m. A number of agencies assisted Rocky Mountain National Park on this incident including Grand County EMS, Grand Lake Fire Protection District, Grand County Sheriff’s Office and Grand County Search and Rescue. The man was located in steep terrain, cliffed out on one side and steep scree on the other. Due to the terrain and darkness, the team of fifteen members stayed put through the night and provided advanced medical care to the injured man.  

 Because of the nature of the man’s leg injury and the location, park rangers requested assistance from the Colorado High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Program to assist in evacuating the man via a hoist operation, using a winch operated cable. This occurred at 8:15 a.m. this morning. The man was flown to Harbison Meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park where he was transported by ground ambulance to Middle Park Medical Center. Rescue team members are hiking out to the trailhead.

Wolf injury under investigation at Yellowstone

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  MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY – Yellowstone authorities are trying to determine how a popular wolf became injured.

The female was part of the park’s Canyon Pack android was one of three known white wolves in Yellowstone. 

According to the National Park Service:

This wolf lived to 12 years, twice the age of an average wolf in the park and had a broad range that extended from Hayden Valley to the Firehole River area to the northern portion of the park. For these reasons, the wolf was one of the most recognizable and sought after by visitors to view and photograph.

On April 11, 2017, hikers discovered the severely injured wolf inside The park near Gardiner, Montana. Park staff concluded the wolf was in shock and dying from the injuries. Staff agreed the animal could not be saved due to the severity of its injuries and the decision was made to kill the wolf.

An investigation into the cause of the injuries has begun which will include a necropsy.

Fossil theft at Death Valley

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photo courtesy National Park Service.

   DEATH VALLEY — Authorities ancient animal footprints left millions of years ago in Death Valley National Park (apparently before it was called Death Valley National Park) have been stolen. Now Park Service officials are offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the thieves.

On March 28, 2017, park officials announced they had recently discovered the theft of the fossil prints.

According to the Park Service:

Trackways of mammals and birds were formed about 3 to 5 million years ago, when the animals left footprints in a muddy lakeshore area. Scientists visit the area regularly, photographing and recording the exact location of each footprint. They discovered the fossils were missing during a recent visit and reported it to park rangers.

Park officials have released photos of hikers and backpackers who were in the area and may have information.

Contact the Investigative Services Branch with any information: 888-653-0009. More photos and additional info here.

Two eel indictments in Broken Glass investigation

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American eel

Two Maine men have been charged in an ongoing eel trafficking investigation. (March 30, 2017)

William Sheldon, 71, of Woolwich, Maine, and Timothy Lewis, 46, of Phippsburg, Maine, were each indicted in Portland, Maine, with crimes related to illegally trafficking juvenile American eels, also known as “elvers” or “glass eels.” A seven-count indictment was returned on March 1, charging Sheldon with conspiracy to smuggle elvers and violate the Lacey Act. A two-count indictment was returned on March 29, charging Lewis with conspiracy to traffic elvers and violate the Lacey Act. Sheldon was arraigned today in U.S. District Court in Portland.

These indictments were the result of “Operation Broken Glass,” a multi-jurisdiction U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation into the illegal trafficking of American eels. To date, the investigation has resulted in these two indictments, as well as guilty pleas for eleven individuals in Maine, Virginia and South Carolina. These eleven defendants combined have admitted to illegally trafficking more than $2.75 million worth of elvers.

Eels are highly valued in east Asia for human consumption. Historically, Japanese and European eels were harvested to meet this demand; however, overfishing has led to a decline in the population of these eels. As a result, harvesters have turned to the American eel to fill the void resulting from the decreased number of Japanese and European eels.

American eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea, an area of the North Atlantic Ocean bounded on all sides by ocean currents. They then travel as larvae from the Sargasso to the coastal waters of the eastern U.S., where they enter a juvenile or elver stage, swim upriver and grow to adulthood in fresh water. Elvers are exported for aquaculture in east Asia, where they are raised to adult size and sold for food. Harvesters and exporters of American eels in the U.S. can sell elvers to east Asia for more than $2000 per pound.

Because of the threat of overfishing, elver harvesting is prohibited in the U.S. in all but two states: Maine and South Carolina. Maine and South Carolina heavily regulate elver fisheries, requiring that individuals be licensed and report all quantities of harvested eels to state authorities.

Backcountry skier rescued at Grand Teton

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A missing skier was rescued Wednesday after two nights in the backcountry of Grand Teton National Park after exiting a backcountry gate leaving the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Jackson, Wy., according to the National Park Service.

Two skiers were reported overdue by friends at approximately 7 p.m. Monday night, February 20, when they did not return from skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The men were identified as 30-year old Chris Prem from Destin, Florida, and 31-year old Mike Syverson from Telluride, Colo.

The emergency call to 911 prompted a conference call with Teton County Sheriff’s Office and Teton County Search and Rescue with Grand Teton National Park to initiate a search for the men. Information to help determine a search area was very limited, other than it was believed the men planned to exit the resort and ski the nearby backcountry. At approximately 10 p.m. the Teton County Sheriff’s Office successfully got a cell phone ping to help determine that the missing skiers were in the Granite Canyon area of Grand Teton National Park. This information greatly helped to narrow the search area.

The National Park Service took the lead with the search. Due to avalanche danger and darkness, resources were gathered to begin an aerial and ground search for early Tuesday morning.

At approximately 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, February 21, a resort tram operator spending the night near the top of the tram was awakened by one of the missing skiers, Prem. An emergency call was made to alert rescue personnel. Prem was uninjured, and communicated that he had separated from Syverson because he had gear that would allow him to travel back to the summit for help. He also had a GPS coordinate from a phone app that could help to locate his friend. Prem spent the night atop the mountain.

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California auctioneer indicted in rhino horn investigation

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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.
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Marble sarcophagus piece returned to Greece

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photo courtesy Manhattan District Attorney’s Office

 
An ancient marble sarcophagus fragment to the Hellenic Republic during was returned Greece during a repatriation ceremony Feb. 10, 2017, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

As part of an ongoing joint investigation in January, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized pursuant to a search warrant the ancient marble sarcophagus fragment from a gallery in Midtown Manhattan, where it was displayed as the centerpiece. The item, which originally dates back to 200 A.D. and depicts a battle between Greek and Trojan warriors, was stolen from Greece in 1988. The artifact was then smuggled abroad and transported through Europe before finally landing in New York. 

Once presented with evidence of the theft, the Manhattan-based art gallery forfeited the item willingly, and the repatriation ceremony represents the return of the ancient sarcophagus fragment to Greece, where it will be displayed for public view and research at the National Archeological Museum of Athens.

Three sentenced in snake trafficking investigation

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 Three men have been sentenced as a part of Operation Kingsnake, a three-year investigation that uncovered the illegal trafficking and collecting of hundreds of wild snakes in Oregon, 11 other states, and Canada, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Michael Collalto, of Rochester, New York, pleaded guilty Jan. 30, 2017, in federal court in Rochester, New York, to four Lacey Act violations for his role in the trade of illegally caught snakes. From 2008 through 2012, Collalto was part of a group of individuals that trafficked hundreds of illegally collected snakes to or from Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Canada.

Collalto, a breeder and collector of reptiles, pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal transport of wildlife and one count of illegal receipt of wildlife, which are misdemeanors under the Lacey Act. In court documents, Collalto admitted that between 2011 and 2012, he knowingly participated in violations, which involved the illegal collection, transport, and receipt of snakes that were collected from and protected by New Jersey and Oregon.

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Indictments for imitation jewelry

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photo courtesy ICE

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A federal grand jury returned an indictment Tuesday charging four individuals with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by conspiring to import and fraudulently sell Filipino-made jewelry as Native American-made.

This is the second indictment filed as the result of a continuing federal investigation that began in January 2015. The investigation targeted an international scheme to violate the IACA, and has included the execution of eight search and seizure warrants and investigative activity in New Mexico, California, Alaska, Kentucky, Nevada and the Philippines.

The three-count indictment charges the following four defendants with conspiring to violate the IACA and the federal fraudulent importation, money laundering, wire fraud and mail fraud laws:

Imad Aysheh, 41, formerly of Gallup, New Mexico, who is identified as the owner and operator of Imad’s Jewelry, a jewelry manufacturing business in the Philippines;

Iyad Aysheh, 45, of Lodi, California, who is identified as the chief executive officer and agent for IJ Wholesale, Inc., a California corporation that imports jewelry into the United States;

Nedal Aysheh, 37, formerly of Gallup, New Mexico, and

Raed Aysheh, 39, of American Canyon, California, who is identified as the owner and operator of Golden Bear & Legacy, LLC, a retail store in Calistoga, California, that specializes in Native American-style jewelry.

A fifth defendant was indicted in 2015.

According to the indictment, from March 2014 through October 2015, the four defendants conspired to violate the IACA by displaying and offering for sale jewelry manufactured in the Philippines in a manner that suggested that it was Indian-produced and the product of American Indian tribes. The indictment also alleges that these defendants conspired to defraud the United States and its people of money by using the U.S. mail and wire communications to promote the importation and sale of the Filipino-made jewelry as Indian-made, and to launder the proceeds of those unlawful sales.

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Conviction in Pakistani smuggling case

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A New Mexico man was convicted Thursday by a federal jury for multiple crimes, including his role in a conspiracy to smuggle ancient artifacts into the United States from Pakistan. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the National Geographic Association.

According to evidence presented at trial and court records, Ijaz Khan, 42, of Sante Fe, New Mexico, was part of a conspiracy that smuggled ancient artifacts into the U.S., including pottery and bronze weapons stolen from burial sites and coins from a cave temple in Pakistan called the Kashmir Smast. Khan and Vera Lautt, 57, also of Santa Fe, used their business, Indus Valley, to sell the artifacts. One shipment of artifacts was stopped at Dulles International Airport in October 2013. Khan and others then attempted to obtain the shipment by submitting various false and fraudulent documents to CBP.

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More on forfeiture of looted Syrian artifacts

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img_0681Yesterday, we wrote about four historical artifacts (including the gold coin pictured at left) looted from Syria that ISIL sold.

Today we are including links to the court documents that the government filed that spell out the legal arguments to claim any of the objects should they turn up. After you get through the legalese, there are some interesting details tucked away about how ISIL issues antiquities looting permits and collects a cut of the finds. Readers will also learn more about how a dispute between the state and merchants led to a kidnapping.

As a bonus, we’ve included a second file of exhibits and attachments in the case. This includes images of receipts and permits issued to diggers as well as a transcript of the hearing on the kidnapping. The exhibits come with English translations.

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