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Press Release

Antiques Dealer Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court Six Months In Prison For Crimes Relating To Illegal Trafficking Of Endangered Rhinoceros Horns

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
Background On Operation Crash

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Ignacia S. Moreno, the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, announced that DAVID HAUSMAN, an antiques dealer in Manhattan, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to six months in prison for obstruction of justice and creating false records, in connection with illegal Rhinoceros horn trafficking. In his July 2012 guilty plea, HAUSMAN admitted that he committed these offenses while holding himself out to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) as an antiques expert who purportedly wanted to help the agency investigate Rhinoceros horn trafficking. HAUSMAN was arrested in February 2012 as part of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide, multi-agency crackdown on those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horn. He was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “With today’s sentence, David Hausman now knows that trafficking in endangered, and legally protected species, and obstructing law enforcement’s ability to do its job have grave consequences.”

Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, Ignacia S. Moreno said: “Mr. Hausman’s blatant deception of officers conducting a federal investigation was illegal and reprehensible. He posed as someone who was protecting this endangered species when he was really obtaining and using inside information to further the illegal trade in black rhino horns. We will vigorously prosecute all those who violate the wildlife protection laws enacted by Congress to protect endangered species like the black rhinoceros from extinction.”

Rhinoceros are an herbivore species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth. They have no known predators other than humans. All species of Rhinoceros are protected under United States and international law and all Black Rhinoceros species are endangered.

Since 1976, trade in Rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”), a treaty signed by over 170 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife, and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets. The demand for Rhinoceros horn and black market prices have skyrocketed in recent years due to the value that some cultures have placed on ornamental carvings, good luck charms, or alleged medicinal elements made from the horn. This has led to an almost complete decimation of the global Rhinoceros population.

Operation Crash is a continuing investigation being conducted by the Department of the Interior’s FWS, in coordination with other federal and local law enforcement agencies including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. A “crash” is the term for a herd of Rhinoceros. Operation Crash is an ongoing effort to detect, deter, and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of Rhinoceros and the unlawful trafficking of Rhinoceros horns.

Hausman’s Offenses

According to the Information, plea agreement, and statements made during court proceedings:

In December 2010, HAUSMAN – while purporting to help the Government crack down on illegal rhinoceros trading – advised FWS that the taxidermied head of a Black Rhinoceros containing two horns had been illegally sold by a Pennsylvania auction house. Upon learning that the sale was not finalized, HAUSMAN covertly purchased the rhinoceros mount himself, using a “straw buyer” to conceal his identification as the true purchaser, because federal law prohibits interstate trafficking in endangered species. HAUSMAN instructed the straw buyer not to communicate with him about the matter by email to avoid creating a paper trail that could be followed by law enforcement. After the purchase was completed, HAUSMAN directed the straw buyer to remove the horns and mail them to him. He then made a realistic set of fake horns using synthetic materials and directed the straw buyer to attach them on the Rhinoceros head in order to deceive law enforcement in the event that they conducted an investigation. After his arrest, HAUSMAN contacted the straw buyer and they agreed that the Rhinoceros mount should be burned or concealed.

In a second incident, in September 2011, HAUSMAN responded to an internet offer to sell a (different) taxidermied head of a Black Rhinoceros containing two horns. Unbeknownst to HAUSMAN, the on-line seller was an undercover federal agent. Before purchasing the horns on November 15, 2011, HAUSMAN directed the undercover agent to send him an email falsely stating that the mounted Rhinoceros was over 100 years old, even though the agent had told him that the rhinoceros mount was only 20 to 30 years old. There is an antique exception for certain trade in rhinoceros horns that are over 100 years old. By falsifying the age of the horns, HAUSMAN sought to conceal his illegal conduct. HAUSMAN also insisted on a cash transaction and told the undercover agent not to send additional emails so there would be no written record. After buying the Black Rhinoceros mount at a truck stop in Princeton, Illinois, agents followed HAUSMAN and observed him sawing off the horns in a motel parking lot.

At the time of his arrest, FWS agents seized four Rhinoceros heads from HAUSMAN’s apartment as well as six Black Rhinoceros horns – two of which were the horns he was seen sawing off in the parking lot – numerous carved and partially carved Rhinoceros horns, fake Rhinoceros horns, and $28,000 in cash.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Oetken sentenced HAUSMAN, 67, of New York, New York, to one year of supervised release. HAUSMAN was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Fund, $18,000 to the Rhino Tiger Conservation Fund, and a $200 special assessment fee.

Mr. Bharara and Ms. Moreno commended the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Newark for their outstanding work in this investigation. The investigation is being led by the Special Investigations Unit of the FWS Office of Law Enforcement and involves a nationwide task force of agents focused on rhino trafficking.

The case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Complex Frauds Unit and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Janis M. Echenberg and Richard A. Udell, a Senior Trial Attorney with the Environmental Crimes Section are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated May 13, 2015

Press Release Number: 13-052