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Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking at the Department of Justice
Rhinoceros photo credit: Fish and Wildlife Service
BLACK MARKET TRADE IN RHINOCEROS HORN
The following cases are the result of “Operation Crash,” an ongoing multi-agency effort to detect, deter, and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinoceros and the illegal trafficking of endangered rhinoceros horns. 

United States v. Zhifei Li, (D.N.J):  On December 20, 2013, Zhifei Li pleaded guilty to being the organizer of an illegal wildlife smuggling conspiracy in which 30 raw rhinoceros horns and numerous objects made from rhino horn and elephant ivory (worth more than $4.5 million) were smuggled from the United States to China.  Li pleaded guilty to a total of 11 counts: one count of conspiracy to smuggle and to violate the Lacey Act, six smuggling violations, one Lacey Act trafficking violation, and two counts of making false wildlife documents.  

Li, the owner of Overseas Treasure Finding in Shandong, purchased two endangered black rhinoceros horns from an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent in a Miami Beach hotel room for $59,000 while attending an antique show.  Li sold the raw rhino horns to factories where they would be carved into fake antiques.  The horns were hidden by a variety of means, including: wrapping them in duct tape, hiding them in porcelain vases, and falsely describing them on customs and shipping documents.  The leftover pieces from the carving process were sold for alleged “medicinal” purposes.

Li admitted that he was the “boss” of three antique dealers in the United States whom he paid to help obtain wildlife items and smuggle to him through Hong Kong.  One of those individuals was Qiang Wang, aka “Jeffrey Wang,” who was sentenced to serve 37 months’ incarceration.  Rhino carvings valued at as much as $242,500 were sold to Li’s customers in China.  In early 2013, one of those customers, Shusen Wei, pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Florida to knowingly buying a smuggled rhino carving from Li.  http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/December/13-enrd-1335.html    

United States v. Michael Slattery, Jr., (E.D.N.Y.):  On January 10, 2014, Michael Slattery, Jr., was sentenced to serve 14 months’ incarceration, followed by three years’ supervised release.  Slattery also will pay a $10,000 fine and forfeit $50,000 of proceeds from his illegal trade in rhinoceros horns.  In 2010, Slattery traveled from England to Texas to acquire black rhinoceros horns.  Slattery and others used a day-laborer with a Texas driver’s license as a straw buyer to purchase two horns from an auction house in Austin.  The defendant and his group then traveled to New York where they presented a fraudulent Endangered Species bill of sale and sold those two horns and two other horns for $50,000.  http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/November/13-enrd-1181.html       

United States v. Jin Zhao Feng et al., (C.D. Cal.):  Vinh Chuing “Jimmy” Kha, Felix Kha, Jarod Wade Steffen, Jin Zhao Feng and the Win Lee Corporation were all involved in a U.S.-based trafficking ring that operated in the black market trade of endangered Rhinoceros horn.  On May 14, 2013, Vinh Chuing “Jimmy” Kha, Felix Kha, and Win Lee Corporation were sentenced for their involvement.  Jimmy Kha will serve 42 months’ incarceration followed by three years’ supervised release. He will pay a $10,000 fine and $76,062 in restitution to the IRS.  Felix Kha will serve 46 months’ incarceration, followed by three years’ supervised release.  He will pay a $10,000 fine and $109,562 in restitution to the IRS.  Win Lee Corporation will pay a $100,000 fine and will complete a five-year term of probation.  The Khas previously pleaded guilty to five counts charging conspiracy, smuggling, Lacey Act trafficking, money laundering, and tax fraud violations.  The corporation pleaded guilty to two felony counts charging smuggling and Lacey Act trafficking.  Wade Steffen was scheduled to be sentenced on October 21, 2013.  A co-defendant, Nhu Mai Nguyen, was scheduled for trial to begin on October 8, 2013.
http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2012/030.html

United States v. Qiang Wang, (S.D.N.Y.):  Qiang Wang, a/k/a Jeffrey Wang, a New York antiques dealer, on December 5, 2013, was sentenced to serve 37 months’ incarceration, followed by three years’ supervised release, for conspiracy to smuggle Asian artifacts made from rhinoceros horns and ivory and violate wildlife trafficking laws.  He also will forfeit all ivory in his possession and is banned from all future trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn. 
Wang operated an antiques business known as Bao Qing Lou Gallery in Flushing, New York.  Between approximately January 2011 and February 2013, Wang conspired with others to smuggle objects containing rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory out of the United States knowing that it was illegal to export such items without required permits.  Wang made and used false U.S. Customs Declarations for the packages containing rhinoceros horn and ivory objects in order to conceal the true contents of the packages.  http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/December/13-enrd-1284.html

 

WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING NEWS

Two Florida Reptile Dealers Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring and Trafficking in Protected Reptiles - Monday, December 8, 2014

Canadian Antiques Dealer Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to Attempted Wildlife Smuggling - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Colorado Big Game Hunting Outfitter Sentenced to More Than Two Years for Role in Illegal Mountain Lion and Bobcat Hunts - Friday, November 21, 2014

Owners of Safari Company Indicted for Illegal Rhino Hunts - Thursday, October 23, 2014

Big Game Hunting Outfitter Pleads Guilty to Felony Conspiracy Charge in Connection with Illegal Mountain Lion and Bobcat Hunting Activities - Friday, August 15, 2014

Big Game Hunting Guide Pleads Guilty to Felony Conspiracy Charge in Connection with Colorado Outfitter’s Illegal Mountain Lion and Bobcat Hunting Activities - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Canadian Antique Dealer Charged with Trafficking Wildlife - Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Long Island Fish Dealer Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Falsifying Federal Records, and Lacey Act Violations - July 16, 2014

Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Rhino and Ivory Smuggling Conspiracy - Tuesdsay, June 24, 2014

Ringleader of International Rhino Smuggling Conspiracy Sentenced in New Jersey to 70 Months in Prison for Wildlife Trafficking Crimes - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Acting Assistant Attorney General Dreher Remarks for District of Columbia Bar Association Panel on U.S. Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking. Washington, DC - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brooklyn Fish Dealer Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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

National Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking and Interpol Officials to Mark World Wildlife Day - Thursday, February 27, 2014

Narwhal Tusk Trafficker Convicted of Conspiracy and Money Laundering - Friday, February 14, 2014

Tropical Fish Importer Pleads Guilty in New York Federal Court to Piranha Import Violations - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Irish National Sentenced to Serve 14 Months in Prison for Trafficking of Endangered Rhinoceros Horns - Friday, January 10, 2014

2013

Antiques Dealer Sentenced To 37 Months In Prison For Wildlife Smuggling - Thursday, December 5, 2013

Smuggling Ring Sentenced in Los Angeles for Criminal Trafficking of Endangered Rhinoceros Horn - Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Antiques Dealer Sentenced in New York City for Crimes Relating to Illegal Trafficking of Endangered Rhinoceros Horns - Thursday, February 14, 2013

2012

Federal Officials Announce Nationwide Crackdown on Black Market Rhino Trade - Thursday, February 23, 2012

 

Last Updated: December 2014