FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEENR
TUESDAY, MARCH 7, 2000(202) 514-2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
FLORIDA MAN WHO TRAFFICKED IN PROTECTED SPECIES PLEADS GUILTY
WASHINGTON - A Florida man today pleaded guilty for his role in illegally trafficking rare reptiles that are protected under domestic and international law. Phillip Langston admitted in U.S. District Court in Miami that he conspired to smuggle and sell a large variety of reptiles, and he pleaded to one felony conspiracy count.
Langston, of Naples, Fla., was indicted by a grand jury in December 1999. From November 1994 through July 1995, he trafficked in protected reptile species that originated in Haiti and the Peruvian Amazon. Many of these reptiles are protected under an international treaty known as "CITES," the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, which is implemented in the United States through the Endangered Species Act.
"Trafficking in rare species threatens our environment," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We will take whatever steps we can here and abroad to stop the black market in these protected reptiles."
As part of his scheme to smuggle reptiles into the United States, Langston established a "breeding farm" in Peru. The farm was intended to make it appear that the Amazon species he traded were captive-bred, when in fact the species would be caught in the wild and therefore were protected under U.S. law and CITES.
Langston admitted selling a large variety of CITES-protected reptiles in Southern Florida, including 60 rhinoceros iguanas, which are threatened with extinction. He also admitted trafficking in Caiman lizards, frog-headed turtles, galliwasps, giant tree frogs, Gibba turtles, green anacondas, Haitian boas, Haitian dwarf boas, Haitian vine boas, Mata Mata turtles, red-tailed boas, twistneck turtles, white-lipped mud turtles, and yellow-footed tortoises.
The government and the defendant have agreed that the retail market value of the reptiles listed in the conspiracy charge was at least $120,000.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, Langston has agreed, in addition to any imprisonment and fine imposed by the court, that he will surrender his U.S. Fish and Wildlife import-export license. The felony conspiracy charge is punishable by up to 5 years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine.