Man arrested for smuggling endangered birds

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From the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont:

 Jafet Rodriguez, 39, of Hazleton Pennsylvania, has been charged with unlawfully smuggling tropical birds into Vermont from Canada, in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the federal anti-smuggling statute. 

photo courtesy US Department of Justice

According to court documents, the Government alleges that on December 30, 2019, at 10:30 A.M., the defendant walked across the Canadian border near the Haskell Free Library in Derby Line, Vermont and approached a car parked in Stanstead, Quebec.

 According to the Government’s allegations, the defendant retrieved a black duffle bag containing the birds from the vehicle parked in Quebec and then walked back into the United States. United States Border Patrol Agents intercepted Rodriquez after he entered another vehicle (with Pennsylvania license plates) in Derby Line, Vermont. The agents recovered seven live tropical birds from this vehicle. 
According to court records, the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory determined that five of the birds were Yellow-headed Amazons (Amazona oratrix) and two birds were White-bellied Parrots (Pionites leucogaster). 

These birds are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (commonly referred to as “CITES”). Under the Endangered Species Act, species which are protected under CITES cannot be imported without the appropriate permits. The birds were turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and transported to the New York Animal Import Center in Rock Tavern, New York for a period of quarantine. 

Las Vegas rhino deal leads to conviction


What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Unfortunately, black rhinos aren’t native to Vegas. Here’s another rhino horn sting that led to an arrest:

California Man Pleads Guilty to the Sale of Horns from a Black Rhinoceros 

Aug. 21, 2015

Lumsden W. Quan, 47, an art dealer from San Francisco, California, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to violate the Lacey and Endangered Species Act and to a violation of the Lacey Act for knowingly selling black rhinoceros horns to an undercover agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). His co-defendant, Edward N. Levine, charged in the indictment remains scheduled for trial on Oct. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Quan pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, Nevada, to all charges in the indictment. He was identified as part of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide effort led by the USFWS and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of rhinoceros horns and other protected species.

Quan admitted in federal court to conspiring with Levine to sell two black rhinoceros horns to an undercover agent posing as a Colorado wildlife collector. Quan stated that he and Levine arranged to have the horns transported to Las Vegas, where on March 19, 2014, Quan sold them to the agent for $55,000. Quan faces a maximum sentence of five-years imprisonment.

Two indicted in latest Operation Crash investigation

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Agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service arrested two men who allegedly attempted to sell rhino horns in the latest Operation Crash investigation. Here are the details from the U.S. Department of Justice:

Two California Men Indicted for Selling Endangered Black Rhinoceros Horns
April 2, 2014

Edward N. Levine, 63, of Mill Valley, Calif., and Lumsden W. Quan, 46, of San Francisco, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas today for the illegal sale of two horns from an endangered black rhinoceros.

According to the indictment, over the course of approximately two months, Quan and Levine negotiated the sale of two black rhinoceros horns by e-mail and telephone, ultimately communicating with a law enforcement officer acting in an undercover capacity. The indictment further alleges that Quan and Levine offered to sell the two black rhinoceros horns for $55,000 and agreed to meet the buyer in Las Vegas. On March 19, 2014, after directing another person to drive with the horns from California to Las Vegas, Quan and Levine flew from California to Las Vegas, to make the sale. Quan met the law enforcement officer acting in an undercover capacity in a Las Vegas hotel room, where Quan sold two black rhinoceros horns for $55,000. Both men were arrested later that day.


Sentencing in Operation Crash

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Here’s the latest sentencing in the Operation Crash rhino horn trafficking investigation:

Antiques Dealer Sentenced in New York City for Crimes Relating to Illegal Trafficking of Endangered Rhinoceros Horns

Feb. 14, 2013

David Hausman, an antiques dealer in Manhattan, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to six months in jail for obstruction of justice and creating false records in connection with illegal rhinoceros horn trafficking, according to the US Department of Justice.

In addition to the jail term, the judge sentenced Hausman, 67, of New York, N.Y., to pay a $10,000 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Fund and $18,000 to the Rhino Tiger Conservation Fund.

In his July 2012 guilty plea, Hausman admitted that he committed these offenses while holding himself out to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) as an antiques expert who purportedly wanted to help the agency investigate rhinoceros horn trafficking. Hausman was arrested in February 2012 as part of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide, multi-agency crackdown on those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horn.

“Rhino populations across the globe are being decimated by poachers seeking to meet rising demand for rhino horn for ceremonial purposes and as a traditional ‘medicine,’ despite the fact that it has no demonstrable medicinal benefits,” said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “As this week’s arrests and sentencing demonstrate, we continue to work with the Department of Justice and international law enforcement agencies to do everything we can to shut this trafficking down and hold perpetrators responsible under the law.”

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

In December 2010, Hausman – while purporting to help the government crack down on illegal rhinoceros trading – advised FWS that the taxidermied head of a black rhinoceros containing two horns had been illegally sold by a Pennsylvania auction house. Upon learning that the sale was not finalized, Hausman covertly purchased the rhinoceros mount himself, using a “straw buyer” to conceal that he was the true purchaser because federal law prohibits interstate trafficking in endangered species. Hausman instructed the straw buyer not to communicate with him about the matter by email to avoid creating a paper trail that could be followed by law enforcement. After the purchase was completed, Hausman directed the straw buyer to remove the horns and mail them to him. He then made a realistic set of fake horns using synthetic materials and directed the straw buyer to attach them on the rhinoceros head in order to deceive law enforcement in the event that they conducted an investigation. After his arrest, Hausman contacted the straw buyer and they agreed that the rhinoceros mount should be burned or concealed.

In a second incident, in September 2011, Hausman responded to an internet offer to sell a (different) taxidermied head of a black rhinoceros containing two horns. Unbeknownst to Hausman, the on-line seller was an undercover federal agent. Before purchasing the horns on Nov. 15, 2011, Hausman directed the undercover agent to send him an email falsely stating that the mounted rhinoceros was over 100 years old, even though the agent had told him that the rhinoceros mount was only 20 to 30 years old. There is an antique exception for certain trade in rhinoceros horns that are over 100 years old. By falsifying the age of the horns, Hausman sought to conceal his illegal conduct. Hausman also insisted on a cash transaction and told the undercover agent not to send additional emails so there would be no written record. After buying the black rhinoceros mount at a truck stop in Princeton, Ill., agents followed Hausman and observed him sawing off the horns in a motel parking lot.

At the time of his arrest, FWS agents seized four rhinoceros heads from Hausman’s apartment as well as six black rhinoceros horns – two of which were the horns he was seen sawing off in the parking lot – numerous carved and partially carved rhinoceros horns, fake rhinoceros horns and $28,000 in cash.

Pangolin trafficking investigation

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Last month, Interpol, the world cops, announced the resultsof its”largest coordinated operation against the illegal poaching and trade in pangolins,” which was probably the only coordinated operation against the illegal poaching and trade in pangolins.One search yielded 5 tons of frozen pangolins headed to Vietnam.

That leaves the rest of us with just one question: What’s a pangolin?

Pangolins are small nocturnal armadillo-like critters that live in the tropics of Asia and Africa and is Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Unfortunately,like all of the other creatures covered by CITES, they are tasty and believed to have medicinal uses.

Interested? Read on, the Interpol release on the operation is below:

Pangolin traffickers arrested in INTERPOL operation across Asia

Countries across Southeast Asia have taken part in the largestcoordinated operation against the illegal poaching and trade in pangolins. Operation Libra, coordinated by INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme, took place in June and Julyand involved investigationsand enforcement actions across Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Supported by the Freeland Foundation through a grantfromUSAID, the operation led to the arrest of more than 40 individuals, with some 200 additional cases currently under investigation across the region.

Pangolins are found across most of Asia and Africa. The nocturnal mammals feed on termites and other insects using a well-developed sense of smell to locate their prey. During the day, and for protection, they curl into a ball, protected by large scales which cover their body. Pangolins are poached and illegally traded by the thousands, due to a high demand for their scales, which are used in traditional medicine,and their meat,which isconsidered a delicacy.Because of their secluded nature, the impact of the illegal trade on the pangolins and their habitatsisdifficult to assess, but some Southeast Asian forests are believed to be nearly devoid of pangolins.

During Operation Libra, which also saw the assistance of the World CustomsOrganization (WCO) and the ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network,enforcement agencies conducted raids on restaurants and other premises across the region. Approximately 1,220 pangolins were recovered,almost halfof which were still alive. In addition to pangolins, birds, snakes and eight tigers cubs were also seized.

In one case, as a result of close international cooperation,Indonesian authoritiesdiscovered a shipment of frozen pangolins bound forVietnam.INTERPOL’s I-24/7 secure communicationssystem was used and additional assistance provided by the WCO to track the shipment to Hai Phong, Vietnam, where it was intercepted by customs officers. The shipment was found to contain 260 cartons of frozen pangolins weighing 5 tonnesin total.The twocountries are working together to identify the suspects.

All eight species of pangolin are protected under national laws, and are also covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In spite of this, thousands of animals are seized every year. Whilst some animals are foundalive, their chances of survival are poor due to harsh transportation conditions and their release in unsuitable environments.