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Environmental Crimes Bulletin September 2023 Week 3

In this issue:

United States v. Teo Boon Ching, No. 1:20-CR-00181 (S.D.N.Y.), AUSA Michael Ross Herman

rhino horns and pieces

On September 18, 2023, a court sentenced Teo Boon Ching to 18 months’ incarceration after pleading guilty to conspiracy to traffic more than 70 kilograms of rhinoceros horns (valued at approximately $725,000) (18 U.S.C. § 371; 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372 (a)(2)(A), 3373(d)(1)(B)).

Ching led a transnational criminal enterprise based in Asia with operations in locations including Malaysia and Thailand that illegally trafficked and smuggled rhinoceros horns around the globe. Ching acted as a specialized smuggler, transporting rhinoceros horns from poaching operations in Africa to primarily Asian customers. Ching also shipped rhinoceros horns to the United States.

Between July 2019 and August 2019, Ching met with a confidential source (CS) to negotiate the sale of rhinoceros horns. He sent the CS numerous photographs of rhinoceros horns available for sale. In August 2019, the CS purchased 12 rhinoceros horns from Ching, with instructions from Ching to deposit the cash into numerous Chinese bank accounts to disguise the origins, source, and purposes of the monetary transactions. On August 23, 2019, Ching arranged for his co-conspirators to deliver 12 rhinoceros horn pieces to undercover law enforcement personnel in Bangkok, Thailand. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensics laboratory examination confirmed that two horn pieces belonged to black rhinoceros and the other 10 pieces came from white rhinoceros, both endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement conducted the investigation, with assistance from the Royal Thai Government, and the Embassy of the United States in Bangkok.

United States v. Dennis Cleveland, et al., Nos. 6:23-CR-03024, 03025 (W.D. Mo.), AUSA Patrick Carney

On September 19, 2023, a court sentenced business owner Dennis Cleveland to 24 months’ incarceration, followed by three years’ supervised release and to pay a $255,000 fine for illegally tampering with emissions controls on diesel-engine trucks. Cleveland pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act (CAA) and one count of tampering with a CAA monitoring device (18 U.S.C. § 371; 42 U.S.C. § 7413(c)(2)(C)). Co-defendant Robert Dyche pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the CAA and is scheduled for sentencing on November 28, 2023 (18 U.S.C. § 371).

Cleveland owned Affordable Towing, a roadside recovery, hauling, and mobile repair provider for commercial and private vehicles serving southwest Missouri. Affordable Towing utilized heavy-duty commercial diesel trucks to tow and haul vehicles to repair facilities. Starting in 2011, Cleveland directed his employees to disable emissions control components on multiple heavy-duty diesel tow trucks. Cleveland conspired with Dyche, the owner and operator of Full Flash Tuning, a business specializing in illegally tampering with vehicle on-board diagnostic systems.

Cleveland, through Affordable Towing, contracted with Dyche on multiple occasions to “tune” or “flash” the emissions control systems for Affordable Towing vehicles, thereby causing multiple fleet vehicles to release pollutants into the air that far exceeded the legally allowable amounts. This alteration allowed each diesel truck to continue operating normally, avoiding maintenance expenses and spending less money on fuel.

In addition to personally tuning Affordable Towing vehicles, Dyche drove vehicles to another business to “tune” the vehicles, for which he received compensation from Affordable Towing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation.

United States v. Antonio Casillas-Montero, No. 3:22-CR-00437 (D.P.R.), AUSA Jonathan Gottfried

On September 22, 2023, a court sentenced Antonio Casillas-Montero a.k.a. Stone City Kennel, to 84 months’ incarceration, followed by three years’ supervised release. Casillas will also pay a $5,500 fine. The defendant pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Animal Welfare Act and possessing dogs for use in an animal fighting venture (18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 49; 7 U.S.C. § 2156(b)).

For more than 30 years, Casillas, operating as Stone City Kennel, and co-conspirators participated in more than 150 dog fights in locations including: Puerto Rico, New Jersey, New York, México, Ecuador, Perú, and the Dominican Republic. The defendants purchased, received, bred, trained, and delivered pit bull-type dogs for the purpose of entering them in animal fighting ventures. As part of the training regime, Casillas injected the dogs with steroids, and chained them to tread mills, forcing them to run or walk for miles. Some of the fights lasted more than an hour.

Casillas sold pit bull-type dogs, including a female “champion” (a dog who has won a specified number of fights) for approximately $20,000. He sold other dogs for between $1,000 and $10,000. Casillas encouraged potential buyers to fly to Puerto Rico to pick up the dogs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation, with assistance from the Humacao Strike Force East; the Puerto Rico Police Bureau Welfare and Protection of Animals (Bienestar y Protección de los Animales); the Federal Bureau of Investigation San Juan Cyber Division; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Humane Society of the United States.

Environmental Crimes Bulletin

Updated December 5, 2023