David Hausman, an antiques dealer in Manhattan, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to six months in jail for obstruction of justice and creating false records in connection with illegal rhinoceros horn trafficking, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, and Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
In addition to the jail term, the judge sentenced Hausman, 67, of New York, N.Y., to pay a $10,000 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Fund and $18,000 to the Rhino Tiger Conservation Fund. Hausman was also sentenced to one year of supervised release to follow his sentence and ordered to pay a $200 special assessment fee.
In his July 2012 guilty plea, Hausman admitted that he committed these offenses while holding himself out to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) as an antiques expert who purportedly wanted to help the agency investigate rhinoceros horn trafficking. Hausman was arrested in February 2012 as part of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide, multi-agency crackdown on those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horn.
“Mr. Hausman’s blatant deception of officers conducting a federal investigation was illegal and reprehensible,” said Assistant Attorney General Moreno. “He posed as someone who was protecting this endangered species when he was really obtaining and using inside information to further the illegal trade in black rhino horns. We will vigorously prosecute all those who violate the wildlife protection laws enacted by Congress to protect endangered species like the black rhinoceros from extinction.”
“With today’s sentence, David Hausman now knows that trafficking in endangered, and legally protected species, and obstructing law enforcement’s ability to do its job have grave consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.”
“Rhino populations across the globe are being decimated by poachers seeking to meet rising demand for rhino horn for ceremonial purposes and as a traditional ‘medicine,’ despite the fact that it has no demonstrable medicinal benefits,” said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “As this week's arrests and sentencing demonstrate, we continue to work with the Department of Justice and international law enforcement agencies to do everything we can to shut this trafficking down and hold perpetrators responsible under the law.”
Background on Operation Crash
Rhinoceros are an herbivore species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth. They have no known predators other than humans. All species of rhinoceros are protected under United States and international law, and all black rhinoceros species are endangered.
Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by over 170 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets. Nevertheless, the demand for Rhinoceros horn and black market prices have skyrocketed in recent years due to the value that some cultures have placed on ornamental carvings, good luck charms or alleged medicinal purposes, leading to a decimation of the global rhinoceros population.
Operation Crash is a continuing investigation being conducted by the Department of the Interior’s FWS in coordination with other federal and local law enforcement agencies including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. A “crash” is the term for a herd of rhinoceros. Operation Crash is an ongoing effort to detect, deter and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinoceros and the unlawful trafficking of rhinoceros horns.
According to the information, plea agreement and statements made during court proceedings:
In December 2010, Hausman – while purporting to help the government crack down on illegal rhinoceros trading – advised FWS that the taxidermied head of a black rhinoceros containing two horns had been illegally sold by a Pennsylvania auction house. Upon learning that the sale was not finalized, Hausman covertly purchased the rhinoceros mount himself, using a “straw buyer” to conceal that he was the true purchaser because federal law prohibits interstate trafficking in endangered species. Hausman instructed the straw buyer not to communicate with him about the matter by email to avoid creating a paper trail that could be followed by law enforcement. After the purchase was completed, Hausman directed the straw buyer to remove the horns and mail them to him. He then made a realistic set of fake horns using synthetic materials and directed the straw buyer to attach them on the rhinoceros head in order to deceive law enforcement in the event that they conducted an investigation. After his arrest, Hausman contacted the straw buyer and they agreed that the rhinoceros mount should be burned or concealed.
In a second incident, in September 2011, Hausman responded to an internet offer to sell a (different) taxidermied head of a black rhinoceros containing two horns. Unbeknownst to Hausman, the on-line seller was an undercover federal agent. Before purchasing the horns on Nov. 15, 2011, Hausman directed the undercover agent to send him an email falsely stating that the mounted rhinoceros was over 100 years old, even though the agent had told him that the rhinoceros mount was only 20 to 30 years old. There is an antique exception for certain trade in rhinoceros horns that are over 100 years old. By falsifying the age of the horns, Hausman sought to conceal his illegal conduct. Hausman also insisted on a cash transaction and told the undercover agent not to send additional emails so there would be no written record. After buying the black rhinoceros mount at a truck stop in Princeton, Ill., agents followed Hausman and observed him sawing off the horns in a motel parking lot.
At the time of his arrest, FWS agents seized four rhinoceros heads from Hausman’s apartment as well as six black rhinoceros horns – two of which were the horns he was seen sawing off in the parking lot – numerous carved and partially carved rhinoceros horns, fake rhinoceros horns and $28,000 in cash.
U.S. Attorney Bharara and Assistant Attorney General Moreno commended FWS and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Newark for their outstanding work in this investigation.
The case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Complex Frauds Unit and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Janis M. Echenberg and Richard A. Udell, a Senior Trial Attorney with the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, are in charge of the prosecution.