Edward N. Levine, 63, of Mill Valley, Calif., and Lumsden W. Quan, 46, of San Francisco, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas today for the illegal sale of two horns from an endangered black rhinoceros, announced Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada. The indictment is a result of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide effort led by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horns.
The indictment charges Levine and Quan each with one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act and one count of violating the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act prohibits the sale of wildlife that was transported in violation of law. The Endangered Species Act prohibits the interstate transportation of endangered species for a commercial purpose and the interstate sale of an endangered species.
According to the indictment, over the course of approximately two months, Quan and Levine negotiated the sale of two black rhinoceros horns by e-mail and telephone, ultimately communicating with a law enforcement officer acting in an undercover capacity. The indictment further alleges that Quan and Levine offered to sell the two black rhinoceros horns for $55,000 and agreed to meet the buyer in Las Vegas. On March 19, 2014, after directing another person to drive with the horns from California to Las Vegas, Quan and Levine flew from California to Las Vegas, to make the sale. Quan met the law enforcement officer acting in an undercover capacity in a Las Vegas hotel room, where Quan sold two black rhinoceros horns for $55,000. Both men were arrested later that day.
Rhinoceros are herbivores 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 U.S. and international law and the black rhinoceros is 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 180 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled. Nevertheless, trafficking in rhinoceros horn has skyrocketed in recent years due to the demand for horn for ornamental carvings, good luck charms or alleged medicinal purposes. As a result of this demand, rhino populations have declined by more than 90 percent since 1970. South Africa, for example, has witnessed a rapid escalation in poaching of live rhinos, rising from 13 in 2007 to more than 1,000 in 2013.
The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement. Officers from the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Nevada Division of Wildlife assisted with the arrests on March 19. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Todd S. Mikolop of the U.S. Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Newman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada.