News and Press Releases

Idaho Man Sentenced for Obstruction of Justice in Key West Marine Life Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 25, 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, announce that Peter C. Covino, IV, 20, of Eagle, Idaho, was sentenced yesterday in Key West, 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.

U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez, who presided over the trial of Peter Covino in July, imposed a sentence of imprisonment of time served - two months, six months of home confinement under electronic monitoring, and two years of supervised release. The court determined that Covino was unable to pay a fine.

According to testimony presented during the trial 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 in an effort to persuade one of the business owners “to erase all the text messages, and emails, or any other evidence” linking the Florida business to Peter Covino’s uncle, Ammon Covino, then a Director of the Idaho Aquarium, Inc., in Boise, Idaho.

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, and charged with engaging in a conspiracy and other 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. The wildlife included spotted eagle rays and lemon sharks, which required Florida licenses and permits never acquired by the participants in the deals. Testimony at Peter Covino’s trial established that Ammon Covino and his co-defendant Christopher Conk had made the arrangements for the illegal purchases by emails, text messages, and telephone calls.

Unknown to Peter Covino at the time of the phone calls was the fact that 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 his uncle, Ammon Covino.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, and the Idaho Department of Fish & Game. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys 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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