Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington has sentenced Steven Phillip Griffin, II (36, Palm Harbor) to 12 months and 1 day in federal prison, to be followed by 2 years of supervised release, for receiving and transporting endangered species in violation of the Endangered Species Act and for possessing firearms and ammunition as a convicted felon. The court also ordered Griffin to forfeit two pairs of southern white rhino horns, four African elephant ivory tusks, one African lion skull, three leopard skulls, ten firearms, and ammunition.
Griffin had pleaded guilty on November 10, 2020.
According to the plea agreement, Griffin communicated with a United States Fish & Wildlife Service - Office of Law Enforcement undercover special agent for more than two years to negotiate the sale and purchase of endangered and threatened wildlife. Throughout Griffin’s communications with the undercover agent, Griffin repeatedly stated that he collects skulls, full skeletons, and other parts of a variety of endangered and/or threatened wildlife such as lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, rhinos, and elephants. Griffin also sent numerous photographs of his personal collection, as well as items on his wish list, to the undercover agent via text message. In May 2019, Griffin drove to Texas, met with undercover agents, purchased, and illegally transported two Southern White rhino horns, four elephant ivory tusks, one African lion skull, and three leopard skulls to Palm Harbor, Florida. Griffin paid the undercover agent $9,750 in cash for the endangered and/or threatened animal parts.
Subsequently, agents executed a federal search warrant at Griffin’s residence and seized a variety of endangered and/or threatened animal parts, firearms, and ammunition. Griffin has been previously convicted of a felony and knew he was not allowed to possess a firearm or ammunition due to his prior conviction.
“This sentence sends a clear message to wildlife traffickers that we and our law enforcement partners are in the business of identifying and apprehending those who exploit protected species for commercial gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Phillip Land of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS-OLE).
This case was investigated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service – Office of Law Enforcement. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lisa M. Thelwell.