MIAMI BEACH WILDLIFE SMUGGLER CHARGED
A Miami Beach man who used various wildlife parts in taxidermy pieces that were offered for sale on the Internet, through galleries, and shows ,has been charged with smuggling wildlife from Indonesia to the United States, announced Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice, and Luis J. Santiago, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Region. Enrique Gomez De Molina, 48, has been charged in a criminal Information with knowingly transporting, possessing, and selling wildlife with a value greater than $350.00, knowing that said wildlife was possessed, transported, sold, and purchased in violation of the Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(1) and 3373(d)(1)(B), and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2.
If convicted, the defendant faces a possible maximum term of imprisonment of up to five years, criminal fines of up to $250,000, and a period of supervised release of up to three years. In addition, all specimens of wildlife trafficked in violation of the Lacey Act are subject to forfeiture.
In order to protect certain species of wildlife against over-exploitation, the United States became a signatory to an international treaty known as the Conventional on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”). Appendix I of CITES includes species that are threatened with extinction and for which trade must be subject to particularly strict regulation and for which no trade is allowed for commercial purposes. Appendix II of CITES includes wildlife species, which although not necessarily threatened with extinction now, may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is strictly regulated. Before importing a specimen of any animal protected under Appendix I of CITES from any foreign country, a valid foreign CITES export permit from the country of origin, or a CITES re-export certificate from a country of re-export, must be obtained as well as a valid import permit from the United States. Before importing a specimen of any animal protected under Appendix II of CITES from any foreign country, a valid foreign export permit or re-export certificate must be obtained. Federal law also prohibits the importation of fish or wildlife into the United States without proper declaration to both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Fish & Wildlife Service.
According to the Information, the defendant possessed the skins of a Java kingfisher (Halcyon cyanoventris) and a collared kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris), one mounted lesser bird of paradise (Paradisaea minor), the skin of a juvenile hawk-eagle (Spizaetus sp.), the carcass remnant of a slow loris (Nycticebus coucang), and the carcass remnant of a lesser mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus), none of which were properly declared when imported into the United States, or accompanied by the required CITES permits.
According to the allegations in the filed Information and statement of facts, De Molina’s illegal wildlife trafficking activities extended from late 2009 through February 2011, and included numerous other species and shipments, involving contacts in Bali, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Canada, and China. The Joint Factual Statement describes the importation into the U.S. of the parts, skins, and remains of species, including among others, whole cobras, pangolins, hornbills, and the skulls of babirusa and orangutans. Despite the interception of two shipments in late 2009 which were ultimately forfeited by De Molina and abandoned, DeMolina continued to solicit protected wildlife from his suppliers via the internet, and to select specific animals from photographs provided to him. The parts or carcasses of the wildlife he selected would then be shipped to him without the permits or declarations required by law.
After receipt, De Molina would incorporate various parts and segments of the wildlife into taxidermy pieces at a studio in downtown Miami. He offered these pieces through galleries and on the internet for prices ranging up to $80,000. In December 2010, pieces constructed by De Molina were exhibited at Art Basel Miami, resulting in at least one significant sale and the subsequent illegal export of the piece to the Canada.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which brought the investigation to a successful conclusion. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Trial Attorney Shennie Patel with the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
An Information is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.