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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Wisconsin

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Milwaukee Man Pleads Guilty to Falsely Labeling Illegal Wildlife Parts

United States Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad announced that on January 29, 2018, Chao Thao (age 37) of Milwaukee pleaded guilty to falsely labeling illegal wildlife parts that he imported from the United Kingdom in violation of the Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(d)(1) and 3373(d)(3)(A)(i). Under the terms of the plea agreement, Thao acknowledged that he sought out and imported into the United States three taxidermized feet of black rhinoceros. Thao arranged with the shipper to falsely label the package containing the rhinoceros feet as “antique ornaments” in an effort to avoid detection by U.S. authorities.

Black rhinoceros is one of the most endangered species in the world. They are protected under United States and international law. Trade in rhinoceros parts is regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by over 180 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets.

Thao’s offense carries a maximum penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The sentencing hearing is set for April 26, 2018 before United States District Judge Lynn Adelman. This case was investigated by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin W. Proctor.

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Updated February 13, 2018