MIAMI – A federal judge in Miami has sentenced Eduardo Ulises Martinez (“Martinez”), a local art dealer, to 51 months in prison for illegally smuggling sculptures containing ivory, and for obstructing justice.
Ivory is a form of wildlife that comes from various mammals, including elephants, walruses, hippopotamuses, warthogs, narwals, and whales. Ivory must be declared to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and made available for inspection prior to its importation and exportation from the United States.
After a seven-day trial, a federal jury found Martinez guilty on 9 counts of smuggling items containing ivory in and out of the United States without declaring it or making the ivory available for inspection by the USFWS, and one count of obstruction of justice for soliciting false evidence, documents, and testimony from a witness during the ongoing investigation.
Martinez purchased numerous sculptures containing ivory from auction houses located in Spain, England, Canada, and Australia, later importing the sculptures into the United States for commercial purposes using various methods of concealment. On some occasions, Martinez dismantled the sculptures into their ivory, bronze, and marble components and later shipped the individual components in different boxes to evade detection from law enforcement. Martinez also shipped the components to various addresses that were not associated with his business or his home. On other occasions, Martinez used third parties located in Spain and England to collect or receive the sculptures from auctions houses in Europe, creating the appearance that the sculptures would stay within the European Union, and thereafter directed the third parties to ship the ivory-containing sculptures to the United States. On another occasion, Martinez concealed the entry of ivory into the United States by packing the ivory components in his luggage. In every instance, Martinez, or others at Martinez’s direction, would fraudulently and falsely declare the contents of the shipping paperwork as bronze and marble, porcelain, bronze, or other false descriptions of the contents to evade inspection and declaration requirements.
Once the sculptures arrived in the United States, Martinez would fix any imperfections in them prior to offering them for sale at a significant mark up. In several instances, Martinez had new ivory parts carved for the illegally imported sculptures before offering them for resale.
Martinez sold sculptures containing ivory to buyers in other countries and facilitated the transportation of those sculptures, knowing that they were intended to be exported from the United States. Throughout the trial, the jury heard evidence via emails, messages, and audio files demonstrating that Martinez knew his actions were illegal, but he continued to engage in those actions for personal financial gain.
After Martinez was stopped at the Miami International Airport on September 8, 2021, and was caught with ivory in his luggage, Martinez removed illegally imported ivory sculptures from his showroom and obstructed law enforcement’s investigation by approaching a witness on various occasions, asking the witness to provide false evidence and testimony.
It was undisputed at trial that Martinez had never made a declaration of wildlife, including ivory, to the USFWS. In addition to the 51-month sentence, the federal district court ordered Martinez to pay a $20,000 fine, serve three years of supervised release following his prison term, and entered a criminal forfeiture order of various sculptures containing ivory.
U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Stephen Clark of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Southeast Region, and acting Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Buckley, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Miami, announced the sentence.
USFWS and HSI Miami investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorneys Marty Fulgueira Elfenbein and Lindsey Lazapoulos Friedman prosecuted the case. Assistant United States Attorney Joshua Paster is handling asset forfeiture.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 22-cr-20137.