News and Press Releases

Idaho Man Convicted of Obstruction of Justice in Key West Marine Life Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2013

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, and David Pharo, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Miami Field Office, announced that Peter C. Covino, IV, 20, of Eagle, Idaho, was convicted today after a jury trial, for knowingly and corruptly attempting to persuade another to alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with the intent to impair the object’s integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1512(b)(2)(B) and 2.

According to testimony presented in Court, and documents in the case file, in February 2013 Covino made two phone calls to a business in the Florida Keys involved in the wholesale marine life trade. His purpose in doing so was in part to direct one of the business owners “to erase all the text messages, and emails, or any other evidence” linking the Florida business to Ammon Covino, the uncle of defendant Peter Covino.

In a separate criminal proceeding, United States v. Ammon Covino, et al., Case No. 12-10020-CR-Martinez, Ammon Covino had been arrested on February 21, 2013, in connection with allegations that he engaged in conspiracy and various violations of the federal Lacey Act by purchasing and transporting wildlife from the Florida Keys to Idaho for exhibit at the Idaho Aquarium in Boise, Idaho. According to the charges, the wildlife included spotted eagle rays and lemon sharks, for which the required Florida licenses and permits were never acquired. Testimony established at trial that Ammon Covino had made the arrangements for the illegal purchases by emails, text messages, and telephone calls.

Prior to the two calls made by defendant Peter Covino on February 21, 2013, and before the arrest and initial court appearance of Ammon Covino, Peter Covino had never been involved with the acquisition of wildlife from Florida and had no prior direct dealings with the Florida-based supplier. Unknown to Peter Covino, the business owner was cooperating with federal authorities and his phone conversations were recorded. During his trial testimony, Peter Covino admitted that he made the calls at the direction of Ammon Covino.

Peter Covino faces a possible sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years. United States District Judge Jose E. Martinez, who presided over the trial, set sentencing in this matter for September 24, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. in the Key West Courthouse.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of NOAA Office for Law Enforcement and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the Officers of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.

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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.

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