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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

California Man Sentenced to One Year in Prison for Illegal Sale of Black Rhinoceros Horns

Lumsden W. Quan, 47, an art dealer from San Francisco, California, was sentenced today in federal court in Las Vegas, Nevada, to one year and two days in prison for conspiracy to violate the Lacey and Endangered Species Acts and to a violation of the Lacey Act for knowingly selling black rhinoceros horns to an undercover agent from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  Quan was also sentenced to three years of supervised release to follow his prison sentence, pay a $10,000 fine and a three year ban on work in the art and antique business. 

Quan, was arrested in March 2014 as part of “Operation Crash,” a nation-wide crackdown in the illegal trafficking of rhinoceros horns, for his role in a conspiracy to knowingly sell black rhinoceros horns across state lines.  In pleading guilty, Quan admitted to working with his co-defendant, Edward N. Levine, to transport two horns from California to Nevada, where they sold them to an undercover agent from Colorado for a sum of $55,000.  Levine, also charged in the indictment, remains scheduled for trial on March 7, 2016, in Las Vegas.  The charges in an indictment are merely allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

“Wildlife trafficking has become an extremely profitable type of transnational organized crime and illicit transactions like this are fueling a global market and leading us closer to a day when rhinoceroses, elephants and countless other species are extinguished from the earth,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “The Justice Department is committed to working through our law enforcement and international partners to reverse this disturbing trend.”

“Prosecuting individuals who profit from the destruction of an ancient endangered species is critical to stopping the illegal ivory trade’” said U.S. Attorney Dan Bogden.  “There are no excuses for this type of crime.  Considering the devastating impact on an endangered species, the offenders should be dealt with appropriately and punished in the criminal justice system.”  

“Illegal trafficking in rhino horn threatens to reverse decades of rhino conservation work in Africa and Asia, driving rhinos to the brink of extinction in the wild,” said Director Dan Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  “Today’s sentencing demonstrates that the United States takes wildlife trafficking very seriously and we will do everything possible to identify and disrupt smuggling operations and hold perpetrators responsible.  I’m very proud of the work of the Office of Law Enforcement for their continued diligence in bringing these criminals to justice.”

Operation Crash is a continuing investigation being conducted by USFWS in coordination with other federal and local law enforcement agencies.  A “crash” is the term for a herd of rhinoceros.  Operation Crash is an ongoing effort to detect, deter and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinoceros and the unlawful trafficking of rhinoceros horns.  As of November 2015, the coordinated efforts of Operation Crash has prosecuted and sentenced nearly 22 subjects and received forfeiture and restitution amounts totaling $5.5 million.

The black rhinoceros is an herbivore species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth.  They have no known predators other than humans.  All species of rhinoceros are protected under U.S. and international law, including the Endangered Species Act.  Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by over 180 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets.

The investigation was handled by the USFWS’s Office of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.  The government is represented by Trial Attorneys Jennifer Blackwell and Ryan Connors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Newman and paralegal Amanda Backer.

Updated August 22, 2016