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Outfitter Charged in Houston with Illegal Import of Wildlife

WASHINGTON—Robert Kern, the president of the Hunting Consortium, a hunting outfitter based in Berryville, Va., and the company itself were both indicted today by a federal grand jury in Houston for violating the Lacey Act, Ronald J. Tenpas, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announced.

The Lacey Act prohibits any person from importing, exporting, transporting, selling, receiving, acquiring or purchasing in foreign commerce any wildlife taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any foreign law related to wildlife.

The indictment is based on a hunt in Russia in the summer of 2002 that was organized by Kern. During the hunt, Kern used helicopters to locate trophy-sized moose and sheep for hunters on the trip. The helicopters were then used as airborne shooting platforms by the hunters. The use of helicopters in the taking of wildlife is prohibited by Russian law. The trophy parts of the wildlife were then transported from Russia and imported into the United States at an airport in Houston.

Kern and the Hunting Consortium are each charged with a felony violation of the Lacey Act, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for Kern, and a $500,000 fine for the Hunting Consortium. An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

The investigation was led by Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice.