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Press Release

Long Island Man Indicted for Smuggling Protected Birdwing Butterflies

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Defendant Falsely Labeled Shipments “Decorative Wall Coverings” and “Origami Paper Craft” to Conceal Wildlife Contents from Authorities

A six-count indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Charles Limmer with conspiracy to smuggle wildlife into the United States, smuggling wildlife into and out of the United States, and violations of the Lacey Act’s prohibitions on falsely labeling and trafficking in wildlife.  Limmer allegedly trafficked numerous deceased specimens of protected butterflies commonly referred to as “birdwings” due to their exceptional size, angular wings and bird-like flight. Limmer will be arraigned at a later date.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Paul Chapelle, Resident Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Valley Stream Division (FWS), announced the charges. 

Mr. Peace also thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their assistance with the investigation.

Limmer operated a commercial business (the “Limmer Business”) importing, exporting, purchasing, and selling wildlife, including protected species of butterflies. In 2016, the Limmer Business obtained a license to import and export wildlife from the FWS. The FWS suspended the license in October 2022.

U.S. law and regulations require that commercial importers and exporters of wildlife have a license and declare wildlife to the FWS.  The restrictions apply to live and dead wildlife specimens, as well as the skins, parts and products made in whole or in part from listed species. Additional documents are also required for wildlife protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including birdwing butterflies.  The Lacey Act also requires that wildlife shipments be accurately labeled and prohibits trafficking in wildlife that an individual knows was transported unlawfully.

As alleged in the indictment, between October 2022 and September 2023, Limmer illegally imported and exported over $200,000 worth of shipments of deceased wildlife specimens.  Limmer sold the unlawfully imported wildlife on Internet platforms to customers located around the world.  To conceal the scheme, Limmer directed his co-conspirators to label the shipments of wildlife as “decorative wall coverings,” “origami paper craft” and “wall decorations.”  He also noted to one co-conspirator, “Screw USFWS[….] They are a gang of Orangutans.” 

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of over 1,000 butterflies, moths and other insects alleged to have been illegally trafficked. 

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  If convicted of smuggling, Limmer faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Section. Assistant United States Attorney Sean M. Sherman is in charge of the prosecution with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist Stephanie Heyward.

The Defendant:

Age:  75
Commack, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 23-CR-405 (LDH)


John Marzulli                                         
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney’s Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated October 10, 2023