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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Irish National Extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom for Trafficking of Rhinoceros Horns

Patrick Sheridan, an Irish national, who was arrested on Jan. 9, 2015, in the United Kingdom pursuant to a request by the United States, was extradited to the United States on Friday and appeared in federal court in Waco, Texas yesterday.  The U.S. sought Sheridan’s extradition for his role in trafficking black rhinoceros horns, announced Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“This extradition is a significant step forward in our international efforts to address wildlife trafficking and demonstrates that our international partners are also committed to ending this illegal trade in endangered species,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden.  “Rhino horn trafficking is having a devastating effect on the rhino and the allegations facing this individual are just the type of illegal behavior that is fueling an international market for horns.  We must stop it in its tracks.”

On May 13, 2014, a federal grand jury in Waco, Texas, returned an indictment that has since been unsealed, charging Patrick Sheridan and a co-defendant with conspiring to traffic in horns from black rhinoceros.  In addition to conspiracy, the indictment charges substantive violations of the Lacey Act for wildlife trafficking and making a false wildlife document.  

According to the indictment, Sheridan, along with a co-defendant and Michael Slattery Jr., used a “straw buyer” to purchase two black rhinoceros horns from a taxidermist in Texas, which the group then transported to New York, where they sold the horns.  In January 2014, Michael Slattery Jr. pleaded guilty and was sentenced 14-months in prison for his role in the conspiracy.  In addition to the trafficking, the indictment also charges Sheridan and his co-defendant with making a fictitious and fraudulent bill of sale in connection with the rhinoceros horns, in an attempt to make their illegal purchase of the horns appear legal.

The transport of Sheridan to the Western District of Texas to face these charges concluded the extradition process from the United Kingdom, a process governed by an extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom.  Sheridan’s arraignment and detention hearing is scheduled in federal court in Waco on Sept. 24, 2015.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.  If convicted of these charges, the defendants each face up to five years in prison on each of the charges, as well as fines up to $250,000.

The case was investigated by agents from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.   The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Gloff for the Western District of Texas and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, with assistance from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

Updated September 22, 2015