FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday - December 15, 2004
RALEIGH - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that ROSITA HEREDIA, a/k/a Rosita Roden, pled guilty to violations of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act in federal court in Raleigh on Wednesday, December 15, 2004. HEREDIA is a former resident of Cary, N. C.
A two-count Criminal Information filed on November 23, 2004, charged HEREDIA with violating the Lacey Act, from February l4, 1998, through April 1998, by knowingly engaging in conduct that involved the purchase and sale of, the offer of sale and purchase of, and the intent to sell and purchase wildlife with a market value in excess of $350.00, such as, parts of endangered species, protected species, and migratory birds, and did knowingly sell and transport the said wildlife, knowing that it had been taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of federal law and aided and abetted another in so doing. The Criminal Information also charged HEREDIA with violating the Endangered Species Act from February 14, 1998, through April 1998, by knowingly and unlawfully offering for sale and selling endangered species in interstate commerce, including but not limited to, harpy eagle, jaguar, leopard (ocelot or margay), tapir, and giant armadillo. HEREDIA pled guilty to both counts of the Criminal Information.
U. S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle accepted HEREDIA's guilty plea but did not set her sentencing date. She could receive a maximum sentence of six years imprisonment, a fine of $350,000.00, and a supervised release term of three years. Her actual sentence will be determined in accordance with the United States Sentencing Guidelines, and any sentence imposed will be without parole.
In accordance with the terms of HEREDIA's plea agreement with the United States Attorney's Office and prior to sentencing, she will forfeit to the government any Amazonian artifacts in her possession that contain parts of migratory birds, protected species, or endangered species. With respect to restitution, the entire collection involved in the offenses charged has been forfeited to the government by the purchasers.
According to evidence and testimony presented in court and documents and exhibits filed in the public record, on or about February 14, 1998, Lawrence M. Small and his wife entered into a sales agreement with HEREDIA in Cary, N. C., wherein she agreed to convey approximately 1,000 pieces of Brazilian tribal art and artifacts to Small and his wife for their personal collection in exchange for $400,000.00. She delivered the pieces to them in two shipments to Washington, D. C.
The total collection purchased by the Smalls consisted of artifacts from the Brazilian Amazon. It included large ceremonial body masks, headdresses, baskets, necklaces, arrows, darts, cooking utensils, musical instruments, and other items reflecting the culture of various tribes in the Amazon. The artifacts are made out of a variety of materials such as feathers, fiber, wood, teeth, shells, reeds, and cotton. Within the collection were certain items, including headdresses, ceremonial body wear, and weapons, which included body parts and feathers from protected and endangered species. Some of the endangered species found in the collection include parts of the harpy eagle, jaguar, leopard, tapir, and giant armadillo.
More specifically, the investigation revealed that approximately 206 pieces purchased by the Smalls from HEREDIA contained items from the species covered by the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora ("CITES"), and/or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act ("MBTA"). Although HEREDIA possessed valid permits to export certain pieces of tribal art from the Brazilian Amazon for educational purposes only, she never obtained valid U. S. permits for the importation, sale and/or possession of CITES Appendix I species (species listed in Appendix I are threatened with extinction and may be traded only in exceptional circumstances), endangered species, or migratory birds. In addition, a substantial portion of the collection was imported unlawfully by HEREDIA and, therefore, was contraband and evidence of a crime.
In addition, the evidence in court revealed that HEREDIA had engaged in at least two other unlawful sales, one of which took place in May 2000 to a buyer in Washington, D. C. The plea agreement notes that the collections of these two other known purchasers have also been forfeited to the government.
Small pled guilty to violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and was sentenced by Judge Boyle in federal court in Raleigh on January 23, 2004. He was ordered to serve two years of probation and to perform 100 hours of community service. He resides in Washington, D. C., and serves as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Investigation of the case was conducted by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region and the Clark R. Bavin National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, located in Ashland, Oregon. The Bavin Lab is the only crime lab in the world devoted to fish and wildlife forensics investigation.
Assistant U. S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan is prosecuting the case for the United States, with assistance by Elinor Colbourn and John Webb of the Wildlife and Marine Resources Section, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U. S. Department of Justice.
News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney's web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.