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.
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