FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, JULY 27, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
PERUVIAN ORCHID DEALER SENTENCED TO 21 MONTHS IN MIAMI
FOR SMUGGLING PROTECTED PERUVIAN ORCHIDS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announced today that U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz has sentenced Manuel G. Arias Silva, a Peruvian national, for his role in a conspiracy to import into the U.S. protected orchid specimens, including specifically specimens of the genus Phragmipedium, commonly known as Tropical Lady’s Slipper Orchids. Arias Silva was sentenced to 21 months with three years supervised release and ordered to pay a fine of $5000. All species of orchids are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). George W. Norris, Arias Silva’s co-conspirator, is scheduled to be sentenced on September 2, 2004.
According to the conspiracy charge in the indictment, to which Arias Silva pled guilty, Arias Silva sold several shipments of orchids to Norris between January of 1999 and October of 2003. Arias Silva would allegedly obtain a CITES permit for the shipment that authorized the export of a certain numbers of artificially-propagated specimens of particular species of orchids. Arias Silva, at the alleged instruction of Norris, would then allegedly include in the shipment specimens of species not included on the CITES permit, which he would falsely label as a species listed on the permit. Arias Silva would then allegedly provide to Norris a code or “key” that would provide a means for deciphering the false labels and identify the true species of the orchids. In some instances, Arias Silva allegedly shipped orchids that were collected from the wild rather than artificially propagated. One shipment in February of 2003 allegedly included some 1,145 specimens, of which approximately 490 were of species not authorized for export by the accompanying CITES permit.
In addition, Arias Silva pled guilty and was sentenced for one count of making a false statement in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a).
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is a treaty to which the United States and Peru, along with over 160 other nations, are parties. The United States implements CITES through the Endangered Species Act. Certain species of orchids are listed on Appendix I of CITES, including all species of the genus Phragmipedium.
The investigation of this case was led by Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection Service. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Florida, and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.