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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned an indictment yesterday against Pir Danish Ali, 43, of Pakistan, and Jason Keith Bruce, 49, of Galt, charging both defendants with conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, to make false statements, and to smuggle goods into the United States, and charging Bruce with smuggling and violating the Endangered Species Act, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced. The indictment was unsealed upon Bruce’s arrest this morning.
According to court documents, Pir was the CEO of a hunting outfitter and guide company based in Pakistan, and Bruce was a recreational big game hunter who hunted as a client of Pir’s company. Beginning in February 2016, Pir and Bruce conspired to hunt a Ladakh urial, an endangered wild sheep, in Pakistan and smuggle the resulting trophy from Pakistan to the United States. (“Trophy” means a whole animal, or a readily recognizable part of an animal, that is prepared for display.) Shortly before the hunt, Pir told Bruce that a recent survey had shown a local population of only 180 animals. The defendants agreed that the export of the Ladakh urial trophy would be achieved through bribery and fraud by declaring it to Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as a different species and presenting forged documents purporting to be issued by Pakistani authorities. Bruce paid Pir $50,000 for the hunt, during which he shot a Ladakh urial.
On March 29, 2018, Bruce flew into San Francisco International Airport from Pakistan carrying eight trophies in his personal baggage, including the Ladakh urial trophy. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents stopped him and alerted the FWS. After the FWS seized the trophy, Pir and Bruce conspired together to lie and did in fact lie to the FWS agents. Further investigation revealed that, between 2013 and 2018, at least 25 hunters who had hunted with Pir’s company presented forged documents to import at least 97 hunting trophies into the United States.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine T. Lydon is prosecuting the case.
If convicted of the conspiracy, Pir and Bruce face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted of the smuggling charge, Bruce faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and if convicted of the violation of the Endangered Species Act, Bruce faces a prison term of up to one year and a fine of up to $50,000 or both. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.