Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Falsifying a Wildlife Document Related to the Sale of Horns from a Black Rhino
John A. Brommel, 53, a resident of Austin, Texas, and the owner of a taxidermy business, pleaded guilty today to violating the Lacey Act’s false labeling provision by knowingly selling horns from a black rhinoceros to non-Texas residents and falsifying the bill of sale to conceal the fact that the actual purchasers were not residents of Texas.
The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, Acting U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr. for the Western District of Texas and Director Dan Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Brommel, who has owned and operated a taxidermy shop in Austin, Texas, for more than 25 years, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. in Waco, Texas, to a one count information charging him with making a false document in connection with interstate wildlife trafficking in violation of the Lacey Act.
Brommel was identified as part of “Operation Crash” – a nationwide effort led by the USFWS and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of rhinoceros horns and other protected species.
In papers filed in federal court, Brommel admitted to selling the horns from the shoulder mount of a black rhinoceros to a group of Irish nationals that included Michael Slattery Jr., who, on Nov. 5, 2013, pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to sell the rhinoceros horns he and his co-conspirators purchased from Brommel. Slattery was sentenced to serve 14 months in prison on Jan. 10, 2014, in federal district court in Brooklyn, New York.
The black rhinoceros is 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 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 170 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 is continuing and is being handled by the USFWS’s Office of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Gloff and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.