Irish National Sentenced to Serve 14 Months in Prison for Trafficking of Endangered Rhinoceros Horns
Michael Slattery Jr., an Irish national, was sentenced in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., today to serve 14 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in relation to illegal rhinoceros horn trafficking, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch for the Eastern District of New York, and Director Dan Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Slattery was also sentenced to pay a $10,000 fine and forfeit $50,000 of proceeds from his illegal trade in rhino horns.
Slattery was arrested in September 2013 as part of “Operation Crash,” a nation-wide crackdown in the illegal trafficking in rhinoceros horns, for his role in trafficking raw rhinoceros horns from Texas to customers in New York. Slattery was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York.
“Mr. Slattery is today being held accountable for his participation in the illegal trade in wildlife species and products, which threatens the very existence of highly-endangered rhino species,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Dreher. “We will continue this active and ongoing investigation and wish to send a clear message to buyers and sellers that we will vigorousl y prosecute those who are involved in this devastating trade.
“We take seriously our obligation to protect these links to the Earth’s prehistoric past,” said U.S. Attorney Lynch. “Michael Slattery’s actions were part of the exploitation and decimation of these animals from their only known predator – man. He is now being held to account for his actions in furthering this devastating trade.”
“ We’re reaching a tipping point, where the unprecedented slaughter of rhinos and elephants happening now threatens the viability of these iconic species’ wild populations in Africa,” said Director Ashe. “This slaughter is fueled by illegal trade, including that exposed by Operation Crash. We will continue to work relentlessly across the United States government and with our international partners to crack down on poaching and wildlife trafficking.”
According to the information, plea agreement and statements made during court proceedings:
In China and Vietnam, rhinoceros horns are highly prized because they are believed to have medicinal value. The escalating value of the horns has resulted in an increased demand that has helped fuel a thriving black market.
In pleading guilty, Slattery admitted to participating in a conspiracy to travel to and within the United States to purchase rhinoceros horns, which he, along with others, then resold to private individuals or consigned to auction houses in the United States, knowing that the interstate purchase and sale of the horns was illegal. Due to their dwindling populations, all rhinoceros species are protected under international trade agreements.
Rhinoceros are a 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 United States and international law. 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 170 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets.
Operation Crash is a continuing investigation being conducted by the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in coordination with other federal and local law enforcement agencies including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. 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.
The investigation was handled by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Nestor and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section are in charge of the prosecution.