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Archived - Law Enforcement Stories and News Releases

Two of the 30 rhino horns purchased and smuggled to China for this defendant by accomplices in the United States. Photo credit: USFWS

Smuggling Kingpin Pleads Guilty

December 26, 2013

The owner of an antiques business in China who orchestrated the smuggling of more than $4.5 million worth of rhino horn and elephant ivory from the United States to China over a two-year period pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts in Federal court in New Jersey last Thursday. The defendant, who was investigated as part of Operation Crash, was arrested in January 2013 by Service special agents when he traveled to Miami on business--business that included buying two black rhino horns from an undercover officer for $59,000. Photo caption: Two of the 30 rhino horns purchased and smuggled to China for this defendant by accomplices in the United States. Photo credit: USFWS

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Joint Factual Statement
Read More about Operation Crash

Narwhals in the Arctic waters of Lancaster Sound, Canada. Photo credit: © 2011 Paul Nicklen/National Geographic, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

U.S. Seeks Extradition of Suspected Narwhal Tusk Smuggler

December 24, 2013

An individual wanted in a joint Service/NOAA investigation of the illegal importation and trafficking of narwhal tusks was arrested in New Brunswick, Canada, on December 19, 2013, on an extradition warrant requested by the United States. This man was indicted by a Federal grand jury in November 2012; charges included conspiracy and money laundering as well as smuggling. Photo caption: Narwhals in the Arctic waters of Lancaster Sound, Canada. Photo credit: © 2011 Paul Nicklen/National Geographic, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

News Release

Pintail drake. Photo credit: George Gentry/USFWS

What Does Baiting Cost?

December 20, 2013

A Mississippi hunter and landowner found out what baiting waterfowl costs in Federal court recently when a U.S. Magistrate Judge ordered him to pay a $5,000 fine and spend two years on probation while banned from hunting anywhere in the world. The man, who paid to have shelled corn place on his duck impoundments to lure in birds and improve his hunting odds, pleaded guilty to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. His prosecution resulted from a cooperative investigation involving the Service and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Photo caption: Pintail drake. Photo credit: George Gentry/USFWS

News Release

Rhino horn libation cup seized by Service agents. Photo credit: USFWS

Antiques Dealer Sentenced for Wildlife Trafficking

December 3, 2013

A New York antiques dealer investigated by the Service for wildlife trafficking has been sentenced to serve 37 months in Federal prison. This individual previously pleaded guilty to Federal conspiracy charges in connection with the smuggling of items made from rhino horn and elephant ivory. He is one of 15 individuals arrested to date in Operation Crash – the Service’s ongoing investigation of rhino horn trafficking. Photo caption: Rhino horn libation cup seized by Service agents. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release

Species trafficked in this case include nurse sharks. Photo credit: Jeff Kobina/Wikimedia Commons

Prison Awaits Florida Marine Life Dealers

December 3, 2013

Two Florida businessmen will spend 24 months and 12 months respectively in Federal prison for conspiring to sell unlawfully harvested live rock, sea fans, and sharks to wholesalers throughout the United States and overseas. The pair must also pay $16,000 in fines. Photo caption: Species trafficked in this case include nurse sharks. Photo credit: Jeff Kobina/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Formation of spotted eagle rays. Photo credit: Steve Dunleavy/Wikimedia Commons

Aquarium Operators Sentenced for Marine Life Trafficking

December 3, 2013

Two officers of the Idaho Aquarium have been sentenced to prison terms for conspiring to harvest, transport and sell spotted eagle rays and lemon sharks in violation of Florida State laws and the Lacey Act. One will serve a one-year prison term while the other, who cooperated with investigators, was sentenced to four months in prison. Photo caption: Formation of spotted eagle rays. Photo credit: Steve Dunleavy/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Sea fans from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary were among the wildlife trafficked in this case. Photo credit: J.M. Davies/Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Store Owner Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy

December 3, 2013

The owner of an aquarium store in Romulus, Michigan, pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy in connection with the purchase and sale of illegally acquired marine life, including sea fans, ornamental tropical fish, sharks, and alligators. A co-defendant entered a similar plea in November. Photo caption: Sea fans from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary were among the wildlife trafficked in this case. Photo caption: Sea fans from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary were among the wildlife trafficked in this case. Photo credit: J.M. Davies/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Blue winged teal. Photo credit: Alan D. Wilson

Oil Company Takes Responsibility for Migratory Bird Kill

November 27, 2013

The owner and operator of a 22-acre brine water pond in Hutchinson County, Texas, has agreed to penalties and a compliance plan in connection with the deaths of some 260 waterfowl, mostly teal, at the facility in August 2012. In addition to implementing measures to protect migratory birds, the company will pay a $50,000 penalty and more than $248,000 in restitution and other contributions to the South Plains Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Photo caption: Blue winged teal. Photo credit: Alan D. Wilson

News Release

Grizzly bear. Photo credit: Ken Conger/NPS

Grizzly Hunters Sentenced in Alaska

November 26, 2013

A mother-son hunting duo from Michigan who pleaded guilty in September 2013 to Federal charges that included conspiracy and making false records were ordered to pay $40,000 in fines and $15,000 in community service payments to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for their crimes. The pair killed a grizzly bear out of season in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and falsified paperwork when shipping the trophy in interstate commerce. The mother and son will serve 4 and 5 years on probation during which they will be barred from hunting. Photo caption: Grizzly bear. Photo credit: Ken Conger/NPS

News Release

Wind turbines in Wyoming. Credit:  Penny Higgins

Wind Power Company to Pay $1 Million for Killing Protected Birds

November 22, 2013

Duke Energy Renewables, Inc. has pleaded guilty to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in connection with the deaths of golden eagles and other protected birds at two of its wind projects in Wyoming. The company, which is the first wind energy operator to be prosecuted for killing protected species, has agreed to pay $1 million in criminal fines and community service and spend some $600,000 per year to implement a five-year environmental compliance plan to prevent bird deaths at its four facilities in Wyoming. Photo caption: Wind turbines in Wyoming. Credit: Penny Higgins

News Release

Snakes obtained by the defendants for sale to collectors in Europe include the federally threatened eastern indigo, the longest snake species native to North America. Photo credit: US Army

Snake Dealers Convicted

November 18, 2013

A Federal jury in Philadelphia found the owners of a Florida reptile wholesale business guilty of conspiracy and wildlife trafficking. The two men stood trial in connection with the unlawful collection, purchase, sale or transport of native snake species in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Florida. Photo caption: Snakes obtained by the defendants for sale to collectors in Europe include the federally threatened eastern indigo, the longest snake species native to North America. Photo credit: US Army

News Release

Crusher in action. Photo Credit: USFWS

U.S. Destroys Seized Ivory

November 11, 2013

Six tons of illegal elephant ivory confiscated by Service law enforcement officers were loaded into an industrial-scale rock crusher and pulverized at the National Wildlife Property Repository outside of Denver, Colorado. Officials from the Departments of Justice and State joined Service Director Dan Ashe and leading conservation advocates in calling for urgent global action to combat wildlife trafficking and stop the slaughter of elephants and other species. Photo caption: Crusher in action. Photo Credit: USFWS

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The rhino poaching crisis in Africa continues to escalate; the number of rhinos killed for horn has already exceeded the toll taken in 2012. Photo credit: Jan Arkesteijn/Wikimedia

U.S. Ivory Stocks Set for Destruction

November 7, 2013

Next Thursday, on November 14, the Service will pulverize some six tons of illegal elephant ivory seized by its law enforcement officers. This "Ivory Crush" is part of the agency's response to the elephant poaching crisis in Africa -- a crisis that cost an estimated 30,000 of the continent's elephants their lives last year. Photo caption: The ivory to be destroyed includes raw, carved, and polished elephant tusks, smaller carvings, jewelry, and tourist trinkets. Photo credit: USFWS

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The rhino poaching crisis in Africa continues to escalate; the number of rhinos killed for horn has already exceeded the toll taken in 2012. Photo credit: Jan Arkesteijn/Wikimedia

Rhino Horn Trafficker Pleads Guilty

November 5, 2013

An Irish national who was arrested by Service special agents in September as he was leaving the United States has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in connection with the illegal purchase and sale of rhino horns. The defendant faces a potential prison term of up to 5 years. Photo caption: The rhino poaching crisis in Africa continues to escalate; the number of rhinos killed for horn has already exceeded the toll taken in 2012. Photo credit: Jan Arkesteijn/Wikimedia

News Release

Photo caption: The State of Florida regulates commercial harvest of spotted eagle rays and other marine species from State waters. Photo credit: John Norton/Wikimedia Commons

Idaho Aquarium, Former Employees Guilty of Marine Life Trafficking

September 26, 2013

The Idaho Aquarium and two former employees have pleaded guilty to Federal conspiracy charges in connection with the illegal harvest and interstate sale of spotted eagle rays and lemon sharks from Florida waters. In a separate criminal proceeding, the nephew of one of these defendants was sentenced for obstruction of justice for having attempted to secure the destruction of records documenting the trafficking. Photo caption: The State of Florida regulates commercial harvest of spotted eagle rays and other marine species from State waters. Photo credit: John Norton/Wikimedia Commons

News Release on Aquarium Plea
News Release on Sentencing

Photo caption: Bonnethead shark. Photo credit: Mills Baker/Wikimedia Commons

Two Florida Marine Life Dealers Plead Guilty in Trafficking Conspiracy

September 26, 2013

Two Florida men have admitted in Federal court that they conspired to harvest and transport marine species from the Florida Keys to buyers throughout the United States and overseas. Live rock and attached invertebrates; sea fans; and bonnethead, lemon, and nurse sharks were among the species unlawfully collected from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Service national wildlife refuges, and State waters by these marine life dealers. Photo caption: Bonnethead shark. Photo credit: Mills Baker/Wikimedia Commons

New Release

Photo caption: Skyrocketing demand and prices for rhino horn are decimating rhino populations in Africa. Photo credit: Yathin Krishnappa/Wikimedia Commons

Member of Organized Crime Group Charged in Operation Crash

September 19, 2013

An Irish national known to be part of the Rathkeale Rovers (an organized crime group operating throughout Europe and North America) faces Federal felony prosecution in connection with his role in a rhino horn smuggling ring. The defendant is the 15th individual arrested to date by Service special agents investigating the black market trade in rhino horn. Photo caption: Skyrocketing demand and prices for rhino horn are decimating rhino populations in Africa. Photo credit: Yathin Krishnappa/Wikimedia Commons

New Release


The ivory to be crushed includes carvings as well as whole raw tusks. Photo credit: USFWS

OLE to Destroy Elephant Ivory Stockpile

September 10, 2013

Plans to crush approximately six tons of elephant ivory seized over the years as a result of Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) criminal investigations and port inspections were announced yesterday by Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at a White House event on wildlife trafficking. The ivory will be destroyed on October 8 at OLE's National Wildlife Property Repository outside of Denver, Colorado. Photo caption: The ivory to be crushed includes carvings as well as whole raw tusks. Photo credit: USFWS

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Special Agent Lisa Nichols (center) works with a group of students during one of the course's practical exercises. Photo credit: USFWS

African Officers Complete Investigations Training

September 9, 2013

Last Friday, 33 African wildlife law enforcement officers graduated from a criminal investigations training program taught by OLE at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Botswana. The training, which has been part of the core curriculum at ILEA Botswana since 2002, was presented twice this year in response to the growing poaching crisis in Africa -- a crisis that threatens to push such species as elephants and rhinos to the brink of extinction. Photo caption: Special Agent Lisa Nichols (center) works with a group of students during one of the course's practical exercises. Photo credit: USFWS

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Trade in Siberian sturgeon and all other sturgeon species has been regulated under the CITES treaty since the l999. Photo credit: Alex Giltjes/Wikimedia Commons

Wildlife Detector K9s on the Job

September 4, 2013

The Office of Law Enforcement’s detector dog teams are sniffing out smuggled wildlife. Recent "finds" include an elephant ivory statue in Chicago; a commercial quantity of whale teeth in Louisville; elephant skin in Los Angeles; and a shipment of 15 live birds in Miami. Photo caption: Wildlife Inspector Amanda Dickson and Lancer check out a cargo warehouse in Chicago. Photo credit: USFWS

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Trade in Siberian sturgeon and all other sturgeon species has been regulated under the CITES treaty since the l999. Photo credit: Alex Giltjes/Wikimedia Commons

Company Caught with Contraband Caviar Cosmetics

August 26, 2013

A Miami customs broker pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Lacey Act in connection with the illegal importation of multiple shipments of cosmetics made from Siberian sturgeon caviar. The shipments arrived in the United States without the required Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) permit and were not declared as wildlife. Photo caption: Trade in Siberian sturgeon and all other sturgeon species has been regulated under the CITES treaty since the l999. Photo credit: Alex Giltjes/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Species smuggled included red-footed tortoises (shown here), Hermann’s tortoises, Russian tortoises, Jackson horned chameleons, green iguanas, and American alligators. Photo credit: H. Zell/Wikimedia Commons

Reptile Trafficker Heads to Prison

August 23, 2013

A 28-year-old New York woman who over a two-year period smuggled over 18,000 protected reptiles (many of them foreign species requiring CITES permits) from the United States to Canada for the “pet” trade was sentenced to spend 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to a felony conspiracy change. The defendant transported the reptiles by boat across the St. Lawrence River from the U.S. side of the Mohawk Indian Reservation to the Canadian side and delivered them to a Canadian co-conspirator. Photo caption: Species smuggled included red-footed tortoises (shown here), Hermann’s tortoises, Russian tortoises, Jackson horned chameleons, green iguanas, and American alligators. Photo credit: H. Zell/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

While the American alligator is no longer considered endangered, both Federal and State governments limit "harvest" to keep recovered populations stable.  Photo credit: © L.E. MacDonald/Wikimedia Commons

Gator Guide Pleads Guilty

August 22, 2013

A Texas hunting and fishing guide who helped a client bag three alligators in a month -- two more than legally allowed in the State -- has pleaded guilty in Federal court to violating the Lacey Act. Photo caption: While the American alligator is no longer considered endangered, both Federal and State governments limit "harvest" to keep recovered populations stable. Photo credit: © L.E. MacDonald/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

oth Federal and State permits are needed to legally catch and band golden eagles and other protected birds.  Photo credit:  Tony Hisgett/Wikimedia Commons

Researcher Fined for Eagle "Take"

August 15, 2013

A wildlife researcher involved in the unlawful capture and banding of eagles and other wild birds was sentenced in Federal court in San Diego after pleading guilty to one charge of violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The defendant will spend three years on probation, pay a $7,500 fine, and turn over data compiled from tracking birds from 2007 to 2012 that had previously been withheld from the government. Photo caption: Both Federal and State permits are needed to legally catch and band golden eagles and other protected birds. Photo credit: Tony Hisgett/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Leopard sharks live in bays and estuaries along California’s coast; the State uses size limits to regulate commercial harvest. Photo credit: Matthew Field/Wikimedia Commons

California Businessman Pleads Guilty to Shark Trafficking

August 12, 2013

A marine life dealer based in northern California has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, three counts of violating the Lacey Act, and nine counts of wire fraud in connection with the illegal harvest and interstate and international sale of live undersized California leopard sharks and live juvenile nurse sharks from Florida. Both States regulate collection of these species for conservation purposes. Photo caption: Leopard sharks live in bays and estuaries along California’s coast; the State uses size limits to regulate commercial harvest. Photo credit: Matthew Field/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Photo caption: Wildlife items purchased here in the United States that were destined for collectors in China include this intricately carved libation cup. Credit: USFWS

Guilty Plea from Antiques Dealer Caught in Operation Crash

August 8, 2013

A New York antiques dealer who was one of several individuals arrested earlier this year in connection with the Service’s ongoing investigation of rhino horn trafficking has pleaded guilty to a Federal count of felony conspiracy. The defendant admitted conspiring with others to smuggle objects, including rhino horn libation cups and ivory carvings, out of the United States using falsified Customs declarations. Photo caption: Wildlife items purchased here in the United States that were destined for collectors in China include this intricately carved libation cup. Credit: USFWS

News Release
About Operation Crash


Native only to Guam and the CNMI, the Mariana fruit bat is listed as threatened under the ESA; factors contributing to the species’ decline include habitat degradation, illegal hunting for human consumption, and predation by invasive brown tree snakes. Photo credit: Melissa B. White/USAF

Legislator Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges in Fruit Bat Investigation

July 24, 2013

A senator who represents the island of Rota in the legislature of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation in connection with the unlawful inter-island transport of eight federally protected Mariana fruit bats.Photo caption: Native only to Guam and the CNMI, the Mariana fruit bat is listed as threatened under the ESA; factors contributing to the species’ decline include habitat degradation, illegal hunting for human consumption, and predation by invasive brown tree snakes. Photo credit: Melissa B. White/USAF

News Release


Smuggled coral. Photo credit: USFWS

Alaska Guide, Canadian Clients Charged with Conspiracy & Other Crimes

July 22, 2013

A joint U.S./Canadian investigation of illegal big game hunting in Alaska has resulted in the U.S. federal grand jury indictment of an Alaska big game guide and three Canadian citizens. Charges against the guide include conspiracy, filing false documents, smuggling and Lacey Act violations connected with mountain goat hunts in Alaska and the unlawful importation of trophy Dall sheep from Canada.Photo caption: Charges against 17 subjects involved in the mountain goat hunts have already been filed in Canada. Photo credit: David Grickson/USFWS

News Release

Smuggled coral. Photo credit: USFWS

Investigation of Sea Turtle Take and Trafficking Yields 8 Arrests

July 19, 2013

Eight individuals were arrested yesterday in Puerto Rico in connection with the illegal take of endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles and black market sale of their meat. Work by the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in support of the Service-led undercover investigation linked illegal sea turtle meat sales to the killing of at least 22 sea turtles. Photo caption: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands comprise the most significant nesting area in the United States for the hawksbill sea turtle. Photo credit: Colin Johnson/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Smuggled coral. Photo credit: USFWS

Coral Smuggler Sentenced in New York

July 17, 2013

The co-owner of a New York wholesale marine supply company will spend one year in prison and pay a $6,000 fine and more than $523,000 in restitution for illegally importing rare live coral. The restitution payment reflects the estimated market value of the more than 16,000 pieces of live coral that were smuggled into the United States by the defendant. Photo caption: Smuggled coral. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release


This jaguar skin was sold to undercover Service agents in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Photo credit: USFWS

It’s a Wild, Wild Web for Wildlife Trafficking

July 11, 2013

Investigators in the United States and Southeast Asia broke up scores of internet-brokered wildlife transactions last summer during Operation Wild Web—a coordinated, Service-led crackdown on web-based wildlife trafficking. Participants included federal and state U.S. officers, and enforcement agencies in Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, whose activities were regionally coordinated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN). Photo caption: This jaguar skin was sold to undercover Service agents in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Photo credit: USFWS

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Photo Gallery

Photo caption: Freshly collected live rock (shown here with various species of soft coral attached) is highly valued by aquarists. Photo credit: USFWS

Florida Marine Life Company Charged for Wildlife Trafficking Conspiracy

July 02, 2013

Key Marine, Inc., a corporation operating out of Grassy Key, Florida, and two Florida men have been charged with conspiracy (a Federal felony) in connection with the illegal harvest and interstate and international sale of marine wildlife unlawfully taken from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and State waters. Trafficked species included live rock and attached invertebrates, sea fans, and bonnethead, lemon and nurse sharks. Photo caption: Freshly collected live rock (shown here with various species of soft coral attached) is highly valued by aquarists. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release


Photo caption: Smuggled elephant ivory. Photo credit: USFWS

President Obama Calls on Federal Agencies to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

July 01, 2013

President Obama has issued an Executive Order to enhance coordination of U.S. Government efforts to curtail wildlife trafficking and assist foreign governments in building their own capacity to combat this threat. Photo caption: Smuggled elephant ivory. Photo credit: USFWS

Executive Order
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Photo caption: Non-tribal members typically pay $1,500 to $12,000 for the five to 10 hunting licenses that are available each year for taking elk, moose, and other big game species on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. Photo credit: USFWS

Former Tribal Officials Sentenced for Sale of Tribal Wildlife

June 26, 2013

Three former officials with the Blackfeet Indian Tribe have been ordered to pay $56,625 in restitution to the Tribe in connection with four unauthorized high-dollar value big game hunts provided at tribal expense to country music performers being filmed for a TV program. The trio pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act by illegally selling tribal wildlife and theft from a tribal government receiving Federal funding. The Service Office of Law Enforcement teamed with the Blackfeet Internal Affairs Office and the FBI to investigate the illegal hunts. Photo caption: Non-tribal members typically pay $1,500 to $12,000 for the five to 10 hunting licenses that are available each year for taking elk, moose, and other big game species on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release

Photo caption:  Angelfish species being unlawfully sold in interstate commerce included Queen angelfish (Holocanthus ciliaris) that exceeded the State's harvest limits on size. Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons

Florida Company Sentenced for Wildlife Trafficking

June 21, 2013

A company dealing in marine species pleaded to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in connection with the illegal harvest, transport, and interstate sale of juvenile nurse sharks and angelfish taken from Florida waters in violation of State law. The company was placed on supervised probation for three years and was ordered to pay a $3,000 criminal fine and surrender all State and Federal licenses, permits, and endorsements in its possession. Photo caption: Angelfish species being unlawfully sold in interstate commerce included Queen angelfish (Holocanthus ciliaris) that exceeded the State's harvest limits on size. Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Photo Caption: DFW International Airport. Photo credit: Daniel Betts/Wikimedia Commons

Texan Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Snakes on Planes

June 20, 2013

A Texas eco-tourism guide who arrived at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport with 16 snakes in four plastic cases hidden in the lining of his jacket has pleaded guilty to wildlife trafficking. The snakes—all smuggled out of Peru—included venomous species; their travel itinerary began with a flight from Lima, Peru to Miami followed by a second flight from Miami to Dallas. Photo Caption: DFW International Airport. Photo credit: Daniel Betts/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Photo Caption: Permits are required for the commercial harvest of nurse sharks in Flordia.  Photo credit: Joseph Thomas/Wikimedia Commons

Shark Trafficker Faces Coast-to-Coast Charges

June 18, 2013

A California marine life dealer involved in the illegal harvest and sale of juvenile nurse sharks in Florida and young leopard sharks from California waters has been charged with Federal wildlife violations in both States. In 2012, a Federal grand jury in Miami charged this marine life/aquarium wholesaler with three counts of Lacey Act violations. In May 2013, the defendant was also charged with six counts of felony wire fraud in the Northern District of California. The Miami indictment, which also named a now-deceased co-conspirator, was unsealed last week. Photo Caption: Permits are required for the commercial harvest of nurse sharks in Flordia. Photo credit: Joseph Thomas/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Photo caption: Walrus are valued for their ivory, but cannot be taken solely for their tusks. Photo credit: Joel Garlich-Miller/USFWS

Two Sentenced for Wildlife Crimes in Alaska

June 14, 2013

A wildlife dealer in Alaska who was implicated in a long-term conspiracy to traffic in walrus ivory has been banned from the business for life and sentenced to serve six months in prison, spend three years on probation, pay a $6,500 fine, and turn over more than 900 pounds of wildlife parts to the Service. In another Service investigation, an Alaska resident was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years supervised release for the wasteful take of walrus (a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act) and firearms-related crimes. Photo caption: Walrus are valued for their ivory, but cannot be taken solely for their tusks. Photo credit: Joel Garlich-Miller/USFWS

News Release on Walrus Ivory Trafficking
News Release on Wasteful Take of Walrus

Photo caption: Texas and many other States strictly regulate the transport of deer across their borders because of disease risks. Photo credit: USFWS

Louisiana Man Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charge for Illegal Deer Transport

June 13, 2013

A Louisiana resident with a financial stake in an east Texas “deer” ranch has pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act in connection with his unlawful “importation” from Missouri of 14 deer valued at over $5,600. Potential penalties include a one-year prison term. Photo caption: Texas and many other States strictly regulate the transport of deer across their borders because of disease risks. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release

Photo caption: The Burmese star tortoise is one of six species or species groups being transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I. Commercial trade is generally not authorized for Appendix I species. Photo credit: Kevin Ho/Wikimedia Commons

Eagle, Hawk Feather Trafficker Sent to Prison

June 12, 2013

A California resident investigated by the Service for selling the parts of golden eagles, hawks and other migratory birds via his MySpace page has been sentenced to spend two years in Federal prison. The defendant previously pleaded guilty to felony violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Lacey Act; more than 18 different bird species were represented in the more than 150 feathers and items seized during the investigation. Photo caption: Federal law strictly prohibits the sale of eagles, other migratory birds, and their parts. Photo caption: The Burmese star tortoise is one of six species or species groups being transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I. Commercial trade is generally not authorized for Appendix I species. Photo credit: Kevin Ho/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Photo caption: The Burmese star tortoise is one of six species or species groups being transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I. Commercial trade is generally not authorized for Appendix I species. Photo credit: Kevin Ho/Wikimedia Commons

CITES Species Listing Changes Effective June 12

June 10, 2013

Most of the changes made to the listings of animals and plants protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that were approved by party countries in March 2013 go into effect on June 12. Changes include the addition of more than 40 new species to CITES Appendix II and amended or new annotations for 20 already existing listings. Photo caption: The Burmese star tortoise is one of six species or species groups being transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I. Commercial trade is generally not authorized for Appendix I species. Photo credit: Kevin Ho/Wikimedia Commons

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Photo caption: Problematic purchases include products made from elephant ivory and spotted cat fur. Photo credit: USFWS

"Buyer Beware" Exhibit Opens at Newark Liberty International Airport

June 7, 2013

Travelers preparing to leave the country via Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey can now check out a new Office of Law Enforcement educational exhibit on wildlife trade and protection. The exhibit, which was produced and installed in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and with assistance from student volunteers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, warns travelers about the risks of buying and importing illegal wildlife products. Photo caption: Problematic purchases include products made from elephant ivory and spotted cat fur. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release

Photo caption: This sentencing is the latest in Operation Crash – an ongoing Service investigation of the black market trade in rhino horn that has already resulted in the arrest of 14 individuals involved in this trafficking. Photo Credit: USFWS

Rhino Horn Traffickers Headed to Prison, Forfeit "Profits" for Conservation

May 16, 2013

Two California businessmen who spearheaded a wildlife trafficking network that smuggled rhino horn to Vietnam from the United States have been sentenced to serve 42 and 46 months in prison. Some $800,000 in cash, gold, and other assets seized by Service special agents from these defendants will go to the agency’s Multinational Species Conservation Fund for use in protecting rhinos in Africa. Photo caption: This sentencing is the latest in Operation Crash – an ongoing Service investigation of the black market trade in rhino horn that has already resulted in the arrest of 14 individuals involved in this trafficking. Photo Credit: USFWS

News Release
About Operation Crash
About Rhino Horn

Photo caption: Remains of a 40-inch diameter 140-year-old black walnut tree destroyed by the defendant, who was only able to remove one log (worth an estimated $1,400) from the site because of the size of the tree. Photo credit: Hill / USACE

Iowa Timber Thief/Trafficker to Serve Prison Time, Pay Thousands in Restitution

May 14, 2013

An Iowa man who cut down and removed 32 black walnut trees (a source of highly valued wood and veneers) from the Service’s Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and property managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been sentenced to serve 15 months in Federal prison and pay $56,225 in restitution. Service special agents teamed with refuge staff, Corps investigators, and Iowa State conservation officers to secure Federal charges for the destruction and theft of these trees. Photo caption: Remains of a 40-inch diameter 140-year-old black walnut tree destroyed by the defendant, who was only able to remove one log (worth an estimated $1,400) from the site because of the size of the tree. Photo credit: Hill / USACE

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Photo Credit: William Woody, Assistant Director for Law Enforcement (left) presents the Guy Bradley Award to Special Agent Schriefer (right) on behalf of the Foundation at an evening gathering during OLE’s Special Agent In Service training program at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Photo credit: Flip Siragusa / USFWS

Guy Bradley Award Presented to Special Agent Kash Schriefer

May 9, 2013

Special Agent Kash Schriefer, who will retire from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later this month after 25 years with the Office of Law Enforcement, is the 2013 winner of the Guy Bradley Award – an honor from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that recognizes individuals for outstanding lifetime contributions to wildlife law enforcement. The bladders sell for as much as $10,000 each in Asian markets. Photo Credit: William Woody, Assistant Director for Law Enforcement (left) presents the Guy Bradley Award to Special Agent Schriefer (right) on behalf of the Foundation at an evening gathering during OLE’s Special Agent In Service training program at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Photo credit: Flip Siragusa / USFWS

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Photo Credit: Native only to Mexico, the totoaba is listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and protected under Appendix I of the CITES treaty; both prohibit commercial trade. Photo credit: USGS

Seven Charged with Smuggling Swim Bladders of Endangered Fish

April 25, 2013

Federal charges have been filed in San Diego against seven individuals investigated by the Service for smuggling swim bladders of endangered totoaba fish into the United States from Mexico. More than 500 of the bladders, which are valued in certain cultures as a soup ingredient and culinary delicacy with alleged medicinal properties, have been seized to date. The bladders sell for as much as $10,000 each in Asian markets. Photo Credit: Native only to Mexico, the totoaba is listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and protected under Appendix I of the CITES treaty; both prohibit commercial trade. Photo credit: USGS

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Photo Caption: William Woody, Assistant Director for Law Enforcement and Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior. Photo Credit: Tami Heilemann / DOI

Assistant Director Spotlights Enforcement Accomplishments for Secretary Jewell

April 25, 2013

William Woody, Assistant Director for Law Enforcement, describes Operation Crash – the Office of Law Enforcement’s highly successful ongoing investigation of rhino horn trafficking – to new Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell as she stops by his office at the Main Interior building in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Tami Heilemann / DOI


Photo Credit: Both States and Native American tribes regulate the commercial harvest of fish from waters under their jurisdiction. Photo credit: E. Engbretson / USFWS

10 Indicted for Fish Trafficking in Minnesota

April 17, 2013

A cooperative Service/State/Tribal investigation of the illegal poaching, sale, and purchase of large quantities of walleye and other fish from lakes on two Minnesota Indian reservations has secured the indictment of 10 individuals for felony Lacey Act violations. State and Tribal charges are also expected. Photo Credit: Both States and Native American tribes regulate the commercial harvest of fish from waters under their jurisdiction. Photo credit: E. Engbretson / USFWS

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Photo Caption: The South Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle population is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Photo Credit: Brian Gratwicke / Creative Commons

Prison Sentence for Georgia Sea Turtle Egg Thief

April 10, 2013

A man who stole over 156 loggerhead sea turtle eggs from nests on Sapelo Island in Georgia has been sentenced to six months in Federal prison. The man, who had packaged the eggs for sale but was apprehended by investigators before he could do so, must also perform 156 hours of community service – one for each egg taken. Photo Caption: The South Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle population is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Photo Credit: Brian Gratwicke / Creative Commons

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Photo Caption: Global demand for rhino horn has spurred unprecedented levels of poaching in rhino range states in Africa. Photo Credit: H. Washefort / Wikimedia Commons

Chinese Businessman Pleads Guilty to Rhino Horn Smuggling

April 5, 2013

A Chinese business executive arrested by Service special agents in connection with the smuggling of a carved rhino horn from the U.S. to China faces a potential prison term of up to 10 years after pleading guilty to a Federal felony charge in Miami. This conviction brings the number of successful prosecutions secured by Operation Crash (the Service’s ongoing investigation of rhino horn trafficking) to nine. Photo Caption: Global demand for rhino horn has spurred unprecedented levels of poaching in rhino range states in Africa. Photo Credit: H. Washefort / Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Caption: Wildlife Inspector Amir Lawal of the Service’s Miami law enforcement office and his new canine partner Viper check packages on a conveyor belt during training. Photo Credit: Tom MacKenzie / USFWS

Detector Dogs Set to Sniff Out Smuggled Wildlife

April 4, 2013

The Service’s first professional wildlife detector dog teams just completed training and will soon be on the job at four of the Nation’s busiest ports of entry. The dogs and their wildlife inspector handlers will boost the Service’s ability to intercept the smuggling of wildlife parts and products, including elephant ivory and rhino horn. Photo Caption: Wildlife Inspector Amir Lawal of the Service’s Miami law enforcement office and his new canine partner Viper check packages on a conveyor belt during training. Photo Credit: Tom MacKenzie / USFWS

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Photo Caption: Curtis' accomplishments include finding a way to extract DNA from leather boots to identify the protected sea turtle species used to make them. Photo Credit: USFWS

Cover Story Features Service Forensic Scientist

April 4, 2013

The work of Senior Forensic Scientist Mary Burnham Curtis and the Service’s National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory is spotlighted in the latest issue of the DePauw University magazine. An alumna of this Indiana college, Curtis heads up the Laboratory’s genetics section and is an expert in using DNA to identify species and help solve wildlife crimes. Photo Caption: Curtis' accomplishments include finding a way to extract DNA from leather boots to identify the protected sea turtle species used to make them. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: Paddlefish caviar has gained popularity and value as beluga and other sturgeon sources for this delicacy have been depleted. Missouri and other States closely regulate paddlefish harvest to prevent overfishing because the species has already disappeared from much of its traditional range. Photo Credit: Missouri Department of Conservation

Service/State Investigation Exposes Paddlefish "Caviar" Trafficking

March 18, 2013

Eight men involved in the black market purchase and interstate or international sale of American paddlefish roe were arrested last week in a multi-State "takedown of a joint undercover investigation conducted by the Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Officers from these agencies and eight other States also contacted more than 100 suspects to issue State citations and conduct interviews. Photo Caption: Paddlefish caviar has gained popularity and value as beluga and other sturgeon sources for this delicacy have been depleted. Missouri and other States closely regulate paddlefish harvest to prevent overfishing because the species has already disappeared from much of its traditional range. Photo Credit: Missouri Department of Conservation

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Photo Caption: Juvenile bald eagle. Photo Credit: Carl Chapman / Wikimedia Commons

Man Fined $15,000 for Removing Eagle from Nest

March 15, 2013

A Texas man who captured a juvenile bald eagle with the intent of training it for use in falconry was fined $15,000. The man was convicted of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when he stood trial last December. Photo Caption: Juvenile bald eagle. Photo Credit: Carl Chapman / Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Caption: Live coral discovered in shipments. Photo Credit: USFWS

Coral Smuggler Pleads Guilty on Felony Count

March 13, 2013

A New York wholesale marine supplier has pleaded guilty to one felony count of smuggling in connection with the illegal importation of more than $523,000 worth of rare live CITES-protected stony coral. The Service investigation, which started when a Service wildlife inspector discovered live corals hidden in a shipment arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, documented extensive coral smuggling over a 7-year period. Photo Caption: Live coral discovered in shipments. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: African elephant. Photo Credit: USFWS

More Convictions for Illegal Ivory Sales in NYC

March 12, 2013

A cooperative Service/State investigation of illegal ivory sales in New York City has secured a guilty plea from a Manhattan-based jewelry wholesaler and its owner on State charges of illegal commercialization of wildlife. Penalties include a $10,000 donation to the Wildlife Conservation Society for use in elephant conservation programs around the world and the forfeiture of $30,000 worth of ivory. Two other companies doing business in the city pleaded guilty to similar charges last year. Photo Caption: African elephant. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: The whooping cranes that winter in Texas each year constitute the only self-sustaining wild population of this endangered species. Photo Credit: USDA

Texas Man to Pay $15,000 for Shooting Whooping Crane

March 8, 2013

A hunter from Dallas who killed a juvenile whooping crane this past January in an area designated as critical habitat for the species pleaded guilty to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and a $10,000 community service payment and spend one year on probation. The bird killed was one of only 34 juveniles that made the 2,500-mile migration from Canada to the Port Aransas area last fall. Photo Caption: The whooping cranes that winter in Texas each year constitute the only self-sustaining wild population of this endangered species. Photo Credit: USDA

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Photo Caption: Yates is a classically trained morphologist and globally recognized expert in mammal hair identification who pioneered the application of the science of morphology in the field of wildlife forensics. Photo Credit: National Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory / USFWS

Forensic Scientist Honored at CITES

March 5, 2013

Wildlife forensic scientist Bonnie Yates, who retired last fall from the Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), has received the 2013 Clark R. Bavin Law Enforcement Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to global wildlife protection. Yates was recognized for her accomplishments in fighting wildlife trafficking over her 20-year career with OLE’s National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon. Photo Caption: Yates is a classically trained morphologist and globally recognized expert in mammal hair identification who pioneered the application of the science of morphology in the field of wildlife forensics. Photo Credit: National Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory / USFWS

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Photo Caption: Whitetailed deer. Photo credit: USFWS

Professional Hunter Racks up $20,000 in Penalties for Illegal Deer Hunt

March 4, 2013

A professional hunter from Tennessee who pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act in connection with an unlawful deer hunt in Kansas has been ordered by a Federal judge to pay a $10,000 fine and $10,000 in restitution. The conviction resulted from a cooperative investigation involving Service special agents and wildlife officers in both States. Photo Caption: Whitetailed deer. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: tems sold or offered for sale in this case included a $900 golden eagle fan and parts of bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, crested caracaras, anhingas and rough-legged hawks – all species protected from commercial exploitation under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Photo credit: © Juan Lacruz / Wikimedia Commons

Service/Tribal Investigation Secures Felony Conviction for Bird Part Sales

February 28, 2013

An Arizona man investigated by Service special agents in coordination with the Navaho Fish and Wildlife Division of Natural Resources has been fined $2,000 and sentenced to 30 days in prison, five months home confinement, and one year of supervised release for selling golden eagle and other migratory bird parts. Photo Caption: Items sold or offered for sale in this case included a $900 golden eagle fan and parts of bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, crested caracaras, anhingas and rough-legged hawks – all species protected from commercial exploitation under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Photo credit: © Juan Lacruz / Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Caption: San Andres Mountains. Photo credit: USFWS

Sentencing of Guide Wraps Up Refuge Trespass Case

February 28, 2013

The owner of a New Mexico big game outfitting company and a guide in his employ will pay $5,000 in fines for taking a client oryx hunting on the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge. The hunter paid a $525 penalty and forfeited the animal killed. Photo Caption: San Andres Mountains. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: States regulate the hunting of black bear and other wildlife to prevent over-exploitation and preserve both species and sporting opportunities for the future. Photo Credit: Hans Stieglitz / Wikimedia Commons

Aquarium Owners Charged with Wildlife Trafficking

February 26, 2013

Special agents arrested the operators of the Idaho Aquarium in Boise under a four-count indictment secured by Service investigators in the Southern District of Florida. The pair (who also own the new aquarium that opened in Portland this past December) purchased four spotted eagle rays and two lemon sharks that had been unlawfully harvested in Florida in violation of the Lacey Act. Photo Caption: Spotted eagle rays. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Caption: States regulate the hunting of black bear and other wildlife to prevent over-exploitation and preserve both species and sporting opportunities for the future. Photo Credit: Hans Stieglitz / Wikimedia Commons

State/Federal Investigative Partnership Documents Hundreds of Wildlife Violations in North Carolina, Georgia

February 25, 2013

A four- year undercover investigation that infiltrated poaching circles in North Carolina and Georgia has documented more than 900 violations involving black bear and other game species. State, Service, and other Federal officers began making arrests last this week in connection with this case; the number of possible defendants could exceed 80. Photo Caption: States regulate the hunting of black bear and other wildlife to prevent over-exploitation and preserve both species and sporting opportunities for the future. Photo Credit: Hans Stieglitz / Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Caption: Operation Crash is an ongoing Service Office of Law Enforcement investigation of the black market trade in rhino horn. Photo Credit: C. Perry / USFWS

Antiques Dealer Sentenced for Rhino Horn Trafficking

February 20, 2013

A New York antiques dealer, who was arrested in the initial nationwide "takedown" of Operation Crash last February and who subsequently pleaded guilty to Federal felony violations, was sentenced to serve six months in Federal prison and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Account and $18,000 to the Rhino Tiger Conservation Fund. He also forfeited four rhino head mounts, six black rhino horns, and numerous carved and partially carved real and fake rhino horns seized by the Service. Photo Caption: Operation Crash is an ongoing Service Office of Law Enforcement investigation of the black market trade in rhino horn. Photo Credit: C. Perry / USFWS

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Photo Caption: American elk. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Joint Service/State Investigation Sends Colorado Big Game Outfitter to Prison

February 19, 2013

A Colorado outfitter who was convicted on six felony Lacey Act counts last September was sentenced to spend 41 months in prison and pay a $7,500 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Account as well as $37,390 in restitution to the State. The outfitter provided salt-baited tree stands to improve elk and deer hunting opportunities for his out-of-state clients. Photo Caption: American elk. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Caption: Skyrocketing demand for rhino horn in China and other parts of Asia spurred the poaching of an unprecedented 668 rhinos in South Africa in 2012. That Nation’s National Parks reported this week that 96 have already been unlawfully killed this year – an average of at least two per day. Photo Credit: Nan Rollison / USFWS

Key Arrests, Indictments in Operation Crash

February 14, 2013

A Chinese national and two of his “business” associates face Federal felony charges, thanks to the Office of Law Enforcement’s ongoing investigative efforts to shutdown this flourishing black market. In this part of Operation Crash, Service special agents exposed the smuggling of more than 20 raw rhino horns and numerous rhino horn libation cups and carvings to Hong Kong in 2011 and 2012. Photo Caption: Skyrocketing demand for rhino horn in China and other parts of Asia spurred the poaching of an unprecedented 668 rhinos in South Africa in 2012. That Nation’s National Parks reported this week that 96 have already been unlawfully killed this year – an average of at least two per day. Photo Credit: Nan Rollison / USFWS

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Photo Caption: Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in the world. Although Service conservation efforts have kept the species from becoming extinct, the current population totals only 600 individuals. Photo Credit: Ryan Haggerty/USFWS

Service Agents Secure $85,000 in Restitution for Endangered Whooping Crane Killing

February 13, 2013

A man who admitted shooting an adult male whooping crane near Miller, South Dakota, last April pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act and was ordered to pay $85,000 in restitution and spend two years on probation. He must also forfeit the rifle used to kill the crane and will be barred from hunting, fishing or trapping anywhere in the United States for two years. Photo Caption: Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in the world. Although Service conservation efforts have kept the species from becoming extinct, the current population totals only 600 individuals. Photo Credit: Ryan Haggerty/USFWS

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Photo Caption: Dall sheep must have a minimum one full curl in their horns to be taken legally. Photo Credit: USFWS

Sheep Hunter Sentenced For Illegally Taking Dall Sheep

February 8, 2013

A Colorado man was sentenced in Alaska for unlawfully transporting unlawfully an undersized Dall sheep that he had killed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The man presented the the sheep for a mandatory horn inspection, knowing full well that the sheep was an unlawful take and that one of the horns had been altered to make the take appear legal. The court ordered the defendant to pay $10,000 in fines, forfeit the sheep, and abstain from hunting for a year. Photo Caption: Dall sheep must have a minimum one full curl in their horns to be taken legally. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: Black coral (only the skeletons are black) is a CITES Appendix II listed species. Photo credit: NOAA

Former Jewelry Company Executive Sentenced for Illegal Black Coral Trade

February 7, 2013

The former president and CEO of a Virgin Islands-based jewelry company was sentenced for his role in importing protected black coral into the United States illegally for sale as high-end jewelry and sculptures. The botched conspiracy cost his company millions of dollars and two of his trading partners time in prison. The ex-CEO must pay $918.950 in criminal fines, $229,687 in restitution, and perform 300 hours of community service. Photo Caption: Black coral (only the skeletons are black) is a CITES Appendix II listed species. Photo credit: NOAA

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Photo Caption: Sei whales are an endangered species and are also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Photo Credit: NOAA

Whale Meat Traffickers Indicted in California

February 1, 2013

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) investigators, working jointly with Service special agents, have secured a nine-count indictment against a California restaurant and two sushi chefs working there on charges of importing and selling Sei whale meat. The two chefs allegedly ordered the meat from a man who had himself been previously convicted of selling illegal marine mammal products. Photo Caption: Sei whales are an endangered species and are also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Photo Credit: NOAA

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Photo Caption: Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo Credit: Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons

Georgia Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing Loggerhead Sea Turtle Eggs

January 31, 2013

A Service/State investigation has secured a felony Lacey Act conviction of a man who collected and planned to sell more than 150 loggerhead sea turtle eggs from nests on Georgia’s Sapelo Island. Loggerhead populations in the Atlantic are protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act; their eggs are considered a delicacy in some cultures and sell for as much as $15 a piece on the black market. Photo Caption: Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo Credit: Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Caption: Five other defendants were previously convicted in this Service investigation for the sale of sea otter hides. Photo Credit: M. Boylan / USFWS

Four Alaska Men Charged with Trafficking Marine Mammals

January 29, 2013

Four men from southeast and south central Alaska have each been separately charged with trafficking sea otters or other marine mammals. In one instance, the trafficking involved 87 dead sea otters and 14 sea otter skulls. Photo Caption: Five other defendants were previously convicted in this Service investigation for the sale of sea otter hides. Photo Credit: M. Boylan / USFWS

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Photo Caption: Saguaro blooms are the Arizona state flower, and the cacti are protected by state and federal law. Photo Credit: USFWS

Man Sentenced for Stealing Cacti From Public Lands

January 29, 2013

An Arizona man was sentenced after pleading guilty to stealing government property and violating the ESA by removing saguaro cacti from federal land and selling them for about $2,000 each to buyers as far away as Austria. He will serve five years supervised probation, eight months weekend incarceration, and pay $32,000 in restitution. Photo Caption: Saguaro blooms are the Arizona state flower, and the cacti are protected by state and federal law. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: The MBTA protects migratory birds and their parts from being illegally harvested and commercialized. Photo Credit: USFWS

MBTA Violators Indicted

January 23, 2013

Two subjects have been indicted for the sale, offer to sell, and/or bartering of migratory bird parts. The two Utah men trafficked in bald eagle, red-tail hawk, and northern flicker feathers. Each defendant could be sentenced to two years imprisonment, one year supervised release, and $250,000 fines on each of the three counts of the indictment. Photo Caption: The MBTA protects migratory birds and their parts from being illegally harvested and commercialized. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: Oil well blowout responsible for the Deepwater Horizon spill. Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

Deepwater Horizon Investigation Secures Second Guilty Plea

January 3, 2013

Transocean Deepwater Inc. has pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, joining British Petroleum (which entered guilty pleas to wildlife and other criminal charges last fall) in acknowledging responsibility for this environmental disaster. As members of the Deepwater Horizon Task Force, Service special agents and other Federal investigators have worked since April 2010 to document Federal crimes committed in connection with the spill. Photo Caption: Oil well blowout responsible for the Deepwater Horizon spill. Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

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Photo Caption: The sale of migratory bird feathers is illegal, and only Native Americans can possess and use them. Photo Credit: USFWS

Louisiana Man Sentenced for Wildlife Trafficking, Porn Possession

December 20, 2012

A man in Louisiana who has been convicted of wildlife trafficking and child porn possession was sentenced to five years imprisonment each for both crimes. The two sentences are to run concurrently, followed by 10 years supervised release. The man was caught when eagle migratory bird feathers were seized from his home and child pornography was found on his computer. Photo Caption: The sale of migratory bird feathers is illegal, and only Native Americans can possess and use them. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: Texas law prohibits importation of whitetail or mule deer to prevent the spread of diseases. Photo Credit: USFWS

Illinois Geneticist Sentenced for Acquiring Illegally Imported Deer Semen

December 19, 2012

An Illinois geneticist was sentenced for acquiring semen from deer which were illegally imported from Texas. He acquired about 294 straws of whitetail deer semen valued at approximately $147,000.00 which he knowingly drew from two bucks which had been transported illegally from an out-of-state source. The subject pleaded guilty to the felony offense of acquiring in interstate commerce and was sentenced to three years probation, $6,000 in fines and $24,000 in restitution to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Photo Caption: Texas law prohibits importation of whitetail or mule deer to prevent the spread of diseases. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: Narwhal tusks are often acquired for display. Photo Credit: Glenn Williams, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Narwhal Tusk Smuggler and Money Launderer Arrested

December 13, 2012

A New Jersey man was arrested after illegally trafficking narwhal tusks and laundering money. This individual and another knowingly bought narwhal tusks which had been illegally imported into the United States. If convicted of their charges, both men face up to 20 years imprisonment and fines up to $250,000. Photo Caption: Narwhal tusks are often acquired for display. Photo Credit: Glenn Williams, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Photo Caption: Open reserve oil pits can entrap and kill birds that mistake them for water. Photo Credit: USFWS

Energy Company Sentenced for Killing Migratory Birds

December 12, 2012

A Western energy company pleaded guilty to three violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for having caused the deaths of birds at its drilling sites in Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska. The company will be on probation for one year and was ordered to pay $22,500 in fines, $7,500 towards migratory bird habitat improvement, and must implement a $300,000 remediation program to prevent future bird deaths at its sites. Photo Caption: Open reserve oil pits can entrap and kill birds that mistake them for water. Photo Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: Importation of Cuban bullfinches requires compliance with wildlife declaration and quarantine requirements. Credit: USFWS

Bird Smuggler Convicted

December 6, 2012

A Miami man was convicted for attempting to import 16 undeclared Cuban bullfinches from Cuba. The man tried to smuggle the birds through Miami International Airport in pockets sewn inside his pants. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, three years supervised release, and $250,000 in fines Photo Caption: Importation of Cuban bullfinches requires compliance with wildlife declaration and quarantine requirements. Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: Mallard hybrid. Credit: USFWS

Mississippi Hunter Sentenced for Wildlife Violations

December 4, 2012

A Mississippi man accused of 30 counts of various poaching-related wildlife violations pleaded guilty to five counts. Charges include the illegal placement of bait on a commercial dove field, provision of commercially guided duck hunts on a National Wildlife Refuge, and aiding and abetting other hunters in the excessive taking of ducks. The subject has been sentenced to $5,000 in fines, $5,000 in restitution to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, 18 months of probation during which he may not hunt, and a five-year ban from any Federal Wildlife Refuge or Reserve. Credit: USFWS

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Photo Caption: The giant snakehead fish can threaten commercial and recreational fishing in the States. Credit: USGS

Ontario Fish Dealer Sentenced for Violating Lacey Act

November 13, 2012

A Canadian man was convicted of trafficking prohibited wildlife and sentenced to a fine of $5,000 and $3,000 in restitution. The man shipped 26 invasive Southeast Asian giant snakehead fish from Ontario to an undercover Service special agent in the United States, and sold the same agent 124 more of the fish, knowing these fish would be illegally smuggled. In Canada, the man was sentenced to 60 days in prison and a $10,000 fine. Photo Caption: The giant snakehead fish can threaten commercial and recreational fishing in the States. Credit: USGS

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Photo Caption: Rare Eastern silvery minnows in Massachusetts currently face the threat of habitat changes like erosion and pollution. Credit: J. Abatemarco / NJDEP

Businessmen Plead Guilty to Wildlife Crimes

November 5, 2012

Two Massachusetts businessmen were convicted of transporting and selling live bait fish from zebra mussel and disease-infested waters - including State-protected Eastern silvery minnows. The two men pled guilty to importing live bait and game fish without proper permits, then selling the fish in interstate commerce, in violation of both Massachusetts state law and the Lacey Act. They face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Photo Caption: Rare Eastern silvery minnows in Massachusetts currently face the threat of habitat changes like erosion and pollution. Credit: J. Abatemarco / NJDEP

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Photo Caption: The Florida softshell turtle is one of the fast-moving turtles on land. Photo credit: Hans Hillewaert / Wikimedia Commons

Fish Ranch Owner Pleads Guilty in "Operation Long Neck"

October 31, 2012

A Florida man pled guilty to trafficking live turtles in interstate commerce. The man caused seventeen Florida softshell turtles to be packaged and shipped aboard domestic aircraft, violating Florida state law. The man forfeited the refrigerated truck he used to transport the turtles and faces up to five years in prison, three years supervised release, $250,000 in fines, and a $100 special assessment. Photo Caption: The Florida softshell turtle is one of the fast-moving turtles on land. Photo credit: Hans Hillewaert / Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Caption: U.S. Department of State seal. Credit: © U.S. Department of State.

Wildlife Trafficking in the Global Spotlight

November 8, 2012

The U.S. Department of State hosted a partnership meeting on wildlife trafficking today, bringing together experts from Federal agencies (including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), foreign ambassadors from around the world, and the nonprofit and business communities to explore ways to step up efforts to combat this threat to both global conservation and international security. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the group, "This is a global challenge that spans continents and crosses oceans, and we need to address it with partnerships that are as robust and far-reaching as the criminal networks we seek to dismantle." Photo Caption: U.S. Department of State seal. Credit: © U.S. Department of State.

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Photo Caption:  Bull elk. Credit: Albert Lavalee / USFWS

Mescalero Man Sentenced for Guiding Illegal Elk Hunt

October 17, 2012

A New Mexico resident was sentenced to serve 45 days in prison and pay $3,000 in restitution to the Mescalero Apache Nation for illegally possessing three bull elk harvested in violation of tribal law. The man, who was found with the three illegally taken carcasses, admitted that he had served as a guide for three Texas residents on a bull elk hunt. Each paid $6,000 for the hunt after being convinced that it was legal. Photo Caption: Bull elk. Credit: Albert Lavalee / USFWS

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Photo Caption: This investigation was executed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Special Operations Unit. Credit: USFWS

Alabama Man Sentenced for Trafficking Protected Reptiles

October 10, 2012

A resident of Scottsboro, Alabama, has been sentenced for the illegal possession, transportation and sale of protected reptiles in violation of the Lacey Act. The defendant, who was also convicted on a conspiracy charge, faces three years probation, the first four months in home confinement while barred from collecting reptiles or assisting anyone else in collecting them. From 2006 through 2009, this collector traveled to Arizona to hunt and capture Arizona State-protected reptiles, including gila monsters. He also provided guiding services to others for such "hunts." Photo Caption: This investigation was executed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Special Operations Unit. Credit: USFWS

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Bank swallow. Photo Credit: Shanthanu Bhardwaj / Wikimedia Commons.

Battelle Cooperates After Swallow Nest Destruction

October 05, 2012

The Battelle Memorial Institute entered into an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington for its MBTA violations involving destruction of over 400 bank swallow nests and over 3,000 bank swallow eggs. The contractor agreed to pay $96,800 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for the preservation, restoration, and/or acquisition of shrub-steppe habitats in the Mid-Columbia Region of Washington. Battelle will also conduct other remedial actions to prevent future violations. Photo Caption: Florida controls the commercial harvest of the Florida softshell turtle (shown here) and other native turtle species; in recent years, these animals have become a "hot commodity" for Asian food markets. Photo Credit: Bank swallow. Credit: Shanthanu Bhardwa / Wikimedia Commons.

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Photo caption: Florida controls the commercial harvest of the Florida softshell turtle (shown here) and other native turtle species; in recent years, these animals have become a "hot commodity" for Asian food markets. Photo credit: USGS

Florida Turtle Farmer, Employee Sentenced for Wildlife Trafficking

September 27, 2012

The owner of a turtle aquaculture facility in Florida and an employee at that business, who were investigated by the Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for illegally selling wild-caught turtles to buyers in China, have both been sentenced in Federal court in Miami. The turtle farmer, whose sentence includes 90 days in Federal prison, held a State turtle collection permit, but that permit only authorized his business to harvest wild turtles for use as brood stock. Photo Caption: Florida controls the commercial harvest of the Florida softshell turtle (shown here) and other native turtle species; in recent years, these animals have become a "hot commodity" for Asian food markets. Credit: USGS

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Photo caption: This investigation, which was conducted by the Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, documented the recurring use of hundreds of pounds of salt to bait elk and deer. Photo credit: Edwin & Peggy Bauer / USFWS

Colorado Big Game Outfitter Convicted on Six Felony Charges

September 25, 2012

A Federal jury in Denver found a long-time big game outfitter guilty of six felony Lacey Act violations in connection with unlawful elk and deer hunts sold to non-resident hunters for between $1,200 and $1,600. The defendant, who faces fines of up to $250,000 and 5-year prison terms on each count, will also forfeit two ATVs and a utility trailer used in committing the crimes. Photo Caption: This investigation, which was conducted by the Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, documented the recurring use of hundreds of pounds of salt to bait elk and deer. Credit: Edwin & Peggy Bauer / USFWS

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Photo caption: caption: Alligator gar, which can grow more than 9 feet long and weigh over 300 pounds, are a highly valued and increasingly popular "collectible" in the high-end megafish aquaria market in Japan and elsewhere. Photo credit: Stan Shebs

Defendant Sentenced in Fish Trafficking Case

September 21, 2012

A Florida man who was convicted by a Federal jury last fall on conspiracy and Lacey Act charges in connection with the illegal harvest and smuggling of live alligator gar from the Trinity River in Texas will serve nine months in Federal prison. Two other defendants pleaded guilty after being investigated by the Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for trafficking domestically and internationally in these large native freshwater fish. Photo Caption: Alligator gar, which can grow more than 9 feet long and weigh over 300 pounds, are a highly valued and increasingly popular "collectible" in the high-end megafish aquaria market in Japan and elsewhere. Credit: Stan Shebs

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Photo caption: Some of the ivory seized by the Service during this investigation was displayed at a 2011 news conference in Philadelphia announcing the arrest and indictment of the defendant. Photo credit: USFWS

Businessman Pleads Guilty to Smuggling African Elephant Ivory

September 18, 2012

The owner of an African art store located in Philadelphia, who was arrested by Service special agents in July 2011, has pleaded guilty to smuggling African elephant ivory -- a crime that carries a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years. The defendant has also agreed to forfeit $150,000 (which will go to the Service-managed African Elephant Conservation Fund) and one ton of seized elephant ivory worth an estimated $400,000. Photo Caption: Some of the ivory seized by the Service during this investigation was displayed at a 2011 news conference in Philadelphia announcing the arrest and indictment of the defendant. Credit: USFWS

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About African Elephant Conservation

Operation Crash has exposed a large-scale black market for rhino horn -- a market that is spurring accelerated rhino poaching in range countries. Photo credit: Karl Stromayer / USFWS.

Guilty Pleas Announced in Rhino Horn Trafficking Probe

September 17, 2012

Four individuals arrested last February in Operation Crash -- an ongoing Service investigation of unlawful trafficking in rhino horn-- and a company charged in the case have pleaded guilty to Federal felony charges in Los Angeles. Crimes acknowledged by the defendants include conspiracy, money laundering, tax fraud, and interstate and international wildlife trafficking involving illegal horn purchases in the U.S. and horn smuggling to Vietnam and other Asian countries. Photo Caption: Operation Crash has exposed a large-scale black market for rhino horn -- a market that is spurring accelerated rhino poaching in range countries. Credit: Karl Stromayer / USFWS.

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About Rhino Horn
About Rhino Conservation

© CITES logo. Photo credit: USFWS.

Iowa Man Faces Felony Charges for Theft of Black Walnut Trees

September 12, 2012

Service special agents secured the indictment and arrest of a Des Moines resident charged with stealing some $40,000 worth of mature black walnut trees from Federal lands in Iowa. The man, who allegedly cut and removed the trees at night, has also been charged with the theft of scrap metal from government property. Photo caption: Black walnut trees are a source of highly valued wood and veneers. Photo Caption: Black walnut trees are a source of highly valued wood and veneers. Credit: Jami Dwyer / Wikimedia Commons.

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© CITES logo. Photo credit: USFWS.

Trade in CITES Species? Check our New Bulletins!

September 11, 2012

Two public bulletins recently issued by the Office of Law Enforcement give importers and exporters up-to-date information about restrictions on the trade of CITES-listed wildlife. Check our postings to learn about trade restrictions on imports from specific countries that are not in compliance with key CITES requirements or that involve specific species from certain countries. Photo Caption: © CITES logo. Credit: USFWS.

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Scalloped hammerhead shark off the coast of Costa Rica. Photo credit: © Barry Peters / Wikimedia Commons.

New Rules for Shark Trade

September 6, 2012

Companies that import or export two shark species – porbeagle and scalloped hammerhead – will soon be subject to new permit requirements under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Shipments of these species will also need to comply with basic Service requirements for wildlife import/export. Photo Caption: Scalloped hammerhead shark off the coast of Costa Rica. Credit: © Barry Peters / Wikimedia Commons.

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Dall sheep. Photo credit: © David McMaster / Wikemedia Commons.

Alaska "Master Guide" Fined $125,000, Faces 5-Year Ban

August 31, 2012

An Anchorage man who operated a professional guiding service in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been ordered to pay a $125,000 fine and spend five years on probation, during which he cannot hunt or guide. The man, whose commercial activities were investigated by Service officers and Alaska State troopers, pleaded guilty to 16 Federal counts related to big game guiding offenses. Photo caption: Violations included concealing a client's illegal take of an undersized Dall sheep and "subletting" his assigned hunting area on the refuge to other guides. Photo Caption: Dall sheep. Credit: © David McMaster / Wikemedia Commons.

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Striped bass. Photo credit USFWS.

Investigation Prompts New Rules for Atlantic Striped Bass Fishery

August 29, 2012

A cooperative Service/State investigation of illegal commercial striped bass harvest in the Chesapeake Bay, which secured over $1.6 million in fines and the convictions of 19 individuals and three corporations, also resulted in the adoption of new rules for this eastern seaboard fishery by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The Commission recently mandated the implementation of mandatory tagging programs to track harvest quotas more accurately and recommended increased penalties for illegal commercial fishing. Photo caption: Striped bass harvest is regulated to ensure species sustainability. Photo Caption: Striped bass. Credit: USFWS.

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Photo caption: The snakes recovered included one ball python, seven boa constrictors, and 19 corn snakes. Photo credit: © Holger Krisp / Wikimedia Commons.

No Snakes on the Plane

August 24, 2012

Service Law Enforcement teamed with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to intercept 27 snakes that were being illegally exported out of the United States by a Brazilian national who had bought them at the recent National Reptile Breeders Expo in Daytona Beach, Florida. The man, who pleaded guilty to a Federal export violation on August 23 (two days after his arrest), had bagged the animals and hidden them inside two audio speakers, which he attempted to check as baggage on a homebound flight out of Orlando. Photo Caption: The snakes recovered included one ball python, seven boa constrictors, and 19 corn snakes. Credit: © Holger Krisp / Wikimedia Commons.

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Photo caption: Golden eagles are also protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Photo Credit: © Adamantios / Wikimedia Commons.

Poacher to Pay for Shooting Golden Eagle

August 21, 2012

A Kansas man who pleaded guilty to shooting and killing a golden eagle last year has been ordered to pay $8,000 in fines and restitution for violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. He will also spend three years on probation while banned from hunting, fishing or trapping and must complete 50 hours of community service. Photo Caption: Golden eagles are also protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Credit: © Adamantios / Wikimedia Commons.

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Photo Caption: Both Sanctuary rules and Florida State laws regulate spiny lobster harvest. Photo Credit: Becky Dayhuff / NOAA

Cooperative Federal Investigation Exposes Illegal Lobstering in Florida Keys

August 20, 2012

Two Florida men who pleaded guilty to Federal conspiracy charges in connection with the illegal harvest of spiny lobster from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary have been sentenced in Federal court. One will spend 9 months in prison. Both were ordered to forfeit boats used to commit the crime and resolve Federal tax issues involving some $270,000 worth of black market lobster sales. Caption: Both Sanctuary rules and Florida State laws regulate spiny lobster harvest. Photo Caption: Both Sanctuary rules and Florida State laws regulate spiny lobster harvest. Credit: Becky Dayhuff / NOAA

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Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Mary Stefanski / USFWS

Lawmen Not Above the Law: Former Police Officer Fined for Lacey Act Violations

August 17, 2012

The second of two former La Crosse, Wisconsin, police officers to plead guilty to wildlife crimes committed while the pair were running a commercial guiding company on the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge when off-duty has been fined $5,000 and barred from guiding or hunting for two years. Both men also resigned from their law enforcement positions. Violations committed on the refuge, which lies along a major flyway for waterfowl, included the take of 87 birds, well over the established bag limits for legal hunting. Photo Caption: Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Mary Stefanski / USFWS

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Plant protections under the Lacey Act help combat illegal logging -- a major threat to rainforests in Madagascar and numerous other countries. Credit: © Mauro Dibier / Wikimedia Commons

Guitar Company to Pay $350,000, Forfeit Wood; Agreement Resolves Service Criminal Investigation

August 6, 2012

The Department of Justice and Gibson Guitar Corp. have entered into a criminal enforcement agreement resolving a Service investigation of Lacey Act violations related to the illegal purchase and importation of woods from Madagascar and India. The company will pay a $300,000 penalty which will be deposited in the Lacey Act Reward Account; make a community service payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for use in the conservation of tree species used to manufacture musical instruments; implement an import compliance program; and withdraw its claims to wood seized during the investigation, including more than $347,000 worth of Madagascar ebony. Photo Caption: Rainforest. Credit: © Mauro Dibier / Wikimedia Commons

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Criminal Enforcement Agreement


Service agents seized four rhino heads, six intact black rhino horns, and numerous partially carved rhino horns, fake rhino horns, and newly produced "libation cups" carved to pass as antiques. Credit: Richard Ruggiero / USFWS

Operation Crash Defendant Pleads Guilty to Federal Felony Charges

August 1, 2012

A Manhattan antiques expert arrested as one of multiple defendants in an ongoing Service investigation of rhino horn trafficking has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and violating the Lacey Act. This individual became a suspect in Operation Crash as he was feeding information about other horn traffickers to the Service as a "concerned" citizen interested in rhino conservation. "Horn trafficking of any type fuels demand for this material and encourages rhino poaching in Africa and Asia, further imperiling species that are already at risk of extinction,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "Service special agents continue working to bring rhino horn traffickers to justice and ensure that the United States is not a player in this illegal trade." Photo Caption: Black Rhino. Credit: Richard Ruggiero / USFWS

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Loss of even one Florida panther is a conservation concern since only 100 to 160 of the animals remain in the wild. Credit: J & K Hollingsworth / USFWS

Florida Man Sentenced for Killing Endangered Panther

July 27, 2012

A defendant who pleaded guilty to killing an endangered Florida panther has been sentenced in Federal court to spend 30 days in Federal custody, 60 days in home confinement, and three years on probation while banned from hunting; pay a $5,000 fine; and make a $5,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Charged as a result of a Service/State joint investigation, the man was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service (some of it at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge) and publish a public apology in a local newspaper. Photo Caption: Flordia Panther. Credit: J & K Hollingsworth / USFWS

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Common snapping turtle. © Lee J Cooper / Wikimedia Commons

Turtle Meat Processor Sentenced for Turtle Trafficking

July 26, 2012

The owner of a Maryland turtle meat processing facility, who was investigated by Service special agents and New York State environmental conservation officers, has been fined $40,000 in connection with his illegal interstate purchases of common snapping turtles -- a species protected under New York State law. The defendant was also ordered to donate $20,000 to support turtle research and education at the Buffalo Zoo, Teatown Lake Reservation, and Buffalo Museum of Science. Photo Caption: Common snapping turtle. Credit: © Lee J Cooper / Wikimedia Commons

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Last updated: March 12, 2014