Office of Law Enforcement
Protecting Wildlife and Plant Resources
Law Enforcement Stories and News Releases

Peter Steinberg/Wikimedia Commons

Wildlife Dealer Makes One Deal Too Many

July 3, 2014

A long-time wildlife dealer operating out of Miami pleaded guilty to brokering the sale of a black rhino shoulder mount in Arizona. The buyer paid $60,000 for the mount, then promptly pried the horns off. Photo caption: The booming market for rhino horn in Asia is imperiling rhino species in Africa. Photo credit: Peter Steinberg/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Operation Crash is an ongoing Service investigation targeting illegal trade in rhino horn. Photo credit: Yathin S. Krishnappa/Wikimedia Commons

Antique Appraiser Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Conspiracy

June 24, 2014

An antiques appraiser in Texas who was investigated as part of Operation Crash pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to traffic in rhino horn and elephant ivory. The defendant was one of three U.S. residents working at the direction of the Chinese businessman who orchestrated the smuggling conspiracy. Photo caption: Operation Crash is an ongoing Service investigation targeting illegal trade in rhino horn. Photo credit: Yathin S. Krishnappa/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Ivory seized from the defendant included whole tusks and carvings made to look like antiques. Photo credit: USFWS

Ivory Trafficker Headed to Prison

June 04, 2014

Philadelphia businessman Victor Gordon was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, to 30 months imprisonment for smuggling elephant ivory into the United States. The court also ordered Gordon to pay a fine of $7,500 and to forfeit $150,000 along with the approximately one ton of elephant ivory that was seized by agents from his downtown store. Photo caption: Ivory seized from the defendant included whole tusks and carvings made to look like antiques. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release

Rhino horns smuggled out of the U.S. at the defendant's direction were sold to factories in China for use in manufacturing fake antique libation cups. Photo credit: USFWS

Prison Term for Rhino Horn Trafficker

May 27, 2014

A Chinese national investigated by the Service for rhino horn and elephant ivory trafficking has been sentenced to serve 70 months in federal prison and forfeit $3.5 million in proceeds from his smuggling activities. Photo caption: Rhino horns smuggled out of the U.S. at the defendant's direction were sold to factories in China for use in manufacturing fake antique libation cups. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release

Ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo credit: Bill Buchanan

Hummingbird Smuggler Indicted

May 16, 2014

A Dallas resident has been indicted in the Eastern District of Texas for smuggling 61 dead hummingbirds into the United States from Mexico. The hummingbirds, which were destined for sale in this country, included species protected under CITES and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Photo caption: Ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo credit: Bill Buchanan

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African elephants in Tanzania. Photo credit: Nevit Dilman/Wikimedia Commons

Service Suspends Some Elephant Trophy Trade

April 4, 2014

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is suspending the importation of sport-hunted African elephant trophies taken this year in Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Concerns about species conservation and management prompted this decision. Photo caption: African elephants in Tanzania. Photo credit: Nevit Dilman/Wikimedia Commons

News Release
Q & A
Public Bulletin

Operation Crash has secured 17 arrests and nine successful prosecutions to date. Photo credit: K. Stromayer/USFWS

Pair Indicted for Selling Rhino Horns

April 2, 2014

Two California residents have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas on felony charges connected with their sale of two black rhinoceros horns to an undercover agent working on Operation Crash -- the Service's ongoing investigation of rhino horn trafficking. The men were arrested on March 19 after closing the deal in a Vegas hotel room. Photo caption: Operation Crash has secured 17 arrests and nine successful prosecutions to date. Photo credit: K. Stromayer / USFWS

News Release
About Operation Crash


Port of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Photo credit: USFWS

On Target

April 1, 2014

The Office of Law Enforcement is expanding its abilities to target illegal wildlife shipments by joining 10 other Federal agencies with border management or import safety responsibilities as a member of the Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center in Washington, D.C. Two Service employees will be part of an interagency group of trade and intelligence analysts at the Center, which facilitates information sharing and collaboration across U.S. border enforcement agencies. Photo caption: Port of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release

Product made from illegally harvested marine species. Photo credit: USFWS

Store Owner Sentenced for Wildlife Trafficking

March 26, 2014

The owner of a Michigan aquarium store was sentenced to pay a $15,000 criminal fine, forfeit a vehicle, and spend three years on probation after he pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy charges in connection with the illegal harvest and interstate purchase and sale of marine life and other species from Florida. The wildlife included live sea fans, ornamental tropical fish, sharks and alligators illegally collected from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Big Cypress National Preserve (an area managed by the National Park Service). Photo caption: Product made from illegally harvested marine species. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release

Birds seized by Service special agents included indigo buntings (shown here), painted buntings, and northern cardinals. Photo credit: Steve Maslowski/USFWS

Songbird Collector to Pay Fines, Restitution

March 19, 2014

A man who pleaded guilty to illegal possession of 34 live songbirds (a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act) was ordered to pay a $15,000 criminal fine and $7,500 in restitution to the Tropical Audubon Society. Photo caption: Birds seized by Service special agents included indigo buntings (shown here), painted buntings, and northern cardinals. Photo credit: Steve Maslowski/USFWS

News Release

Manatees are protected as an endangered species. Photo credit: Gaylen Rathburn/Wikimedia Commons

Men Plead Guilty to Messing with Manatees

March 7, 2014

Two Florida men pleaded guilty under the Endangered Species Act to harassing a female manatee and her calf. The pair helped ensure their conviction when they filmed the incident and posted the video on Facebook. In the film, one is shown luring the manatees toward a dock so the other can "cannonball" onto them. Photo caption: Manatees are protected as an endangered species. Photo credit: Gaylen Rathburn/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

African elephants. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Elephant Ivory "Ban" — Step One

February 26, 2014

The Service has issued a Director's Order tightening controls on the trade of elephant ivory and other products made from protected species. The Order represents the first in a series of administrative actions to further restrict commercialization of elephant ivory as called for in the National Strategy on Combating Wildlife Trafficking. The Order instructs Service employees to strictly implement and enforce the African Elephant Conservation Act moratorium on the importation of raw and worked African elephant ivory and also mandates similarly strict adherence to the criteria established in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for exempting antiques from that statute’s prohibitions on import, export, and interstate sale. Photo caption: African elephants. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Director's Order
Public Bulletin
Questions & Answers

Narwhals surfacing. Photo credit: NOAA

Jury Convicts Narwhal Tusk Trafficker

February 14, 2014

A Federal jury in Bangor, Maine, found a New Jersey man guilty of smuggling narwhal tusks from Canada and related money laundering crimes. Of the four others charged in this joint Service/NOAA/Environment Canada investigation, two have already pleaded guilty and a third awaits extradition from Canada. Photo caption: Narwhals surfacing. Photo credit: NOAA

News Release

Many States prohibit the transport of deer across their borders to prevent the spread of wildlife disease and protect their own wildlife populations. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

Trio Charged for Transporting Potentially Diseased Deer

February 12, 2014

Three Louisiana residents face a 13-count Federal indictment for bringing live white-tailed deer into Mississippi in violation of State law and the Lacey Act. The group intended to breed the animals for commercial hunting on a wildlife enclosure operated by one of them. Photo caption: Many States prohibit the transport of deer across their borders to prevent the spread of wildlife disease and protect their own wildlife populations. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

News Release

While the bald eagle is no longer an endangered species, the bird remains protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Photo credit: Forest Wander Nature Photography,

Guilty Pleas in Eagle Poisoning Case

February 12, 2014

Two Wisconsin men pleaded guilty to Federal charges in connection with the unlawful poisoning of bald eagles on their property. The father and son pair used the pesticide Carbofuran to kill predators that prey on wildlife that they enjoyed hunting. Photo caption: While the bald eagle is no longer an endangered species, the bird remains protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Photo credit: Forest Wander Nature Photography.

News Release

White-tailed deer. Photo credit: Ryan Haggerty/USFWS

Illegal Hunting Investigation Secures Over $235,000 in Penalties

February 12, 2014

A Service/State investigation of a commercial hunting operation in South Dakota resulted in the successful Federal and/or State prosecution of 18 individuals and the payment of more than $235,000 in fines, restitution, and civil damages. Those prosecuted were involved in the large-scale commercial exploitation of trophy deer and other wildlife. Photo caption: White-tailed deer. Photo credit: Ryan Haggerty/USFWS

News Release

Species at risk range from elephants, rhinos, and tigers to sea turtles, sturgeon, and tarantulas. Photo credit: Trisha M. Shears/Wikimedia Commons

Elephant Ivory Ban on its Way

February 11, 2014

In sync with the release of the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, the Service announced plans to move forward with a near-complete ban on commercial elephant ivory trade. This ban, which will be implemented over the coming months through a series of administrative actions, responds to the poaching crisis in Africa that threatens to wipe out that continent's elephant populations. Photo caption: Species at risk range from elephants, rhinos, and tigers to sea turtles, sturgeon, and tarantulas. Photo credit: Trisha M. Shears/Wikimedia Commons

News Release
Learn More About the Ban
Learn More About the Wildlife Trafficking


Species at risk range from elephants, rhinos, and tigers to sea turtles, sturgeon, and tarantulas. Photo credit: Trisha M. Shears/Wikimedia Commons

White House Unveils Wildlife Trafficking Strategy

February 11, 2014

The United States today issued a National Strategy on Combating Wildlife Trafficking that will strengthen U.S. leadership on addressing the serious and urgent conservation and global security threat posed by the illegal trade in wildlife. The Office of Law Enforcement played a critical role in developing this strategy and will contribute to its implementation as well. Photo caption: Species at risk range from elephants, rhinos, and tigers to sea turtles, sturgeon, and tarantulas. Photo credit: Trisha M. Shears/Wikimedia Commons

White House fact sheet
Read the Strategy


Piranha jaws. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Company Pleads Guilty to Importing Prohibited Piranhas

January 29, 2014

A New York tropical fish importer and his business admitted in Federal court that they smuggled nearly 40,000 falsely labeled live piranhas into the country from Hong Kong for sale to retailers in multiple States. Many States regulate the import and sale of these highly aggressive, potentially invasive South American fish. The plea agreement calls for the payment of more than $70,000 in fines and restitution. Photo caption: Piranha jaws. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

News Release


Eastern box turtle. Photo credit:  © Jarek Tuszynski/Wikimedia Commons

Store Owner Sentenced for Two-way Turtle Trade

January 17, 2014

A former reptile store operator in Washington State was sentenced to 12 months in prison and three years of supervised release in connection with a wide-ranging conspiracy to illegally traffic in protected reptile species. This man and five co-defendants operated a two-way smuggling network that was responsible for the illegal export of domestic species and the unlawful importation of foreign reptiles, all via Hong Kong. Trafficked wildlife included Eastern box turtles, North American wood turtles, and Gulf Coast box turtles from the United States; foreign species included a critically endangered Arakan forest turtle, black-breasted leaf turtles, Chinese striped-necked turtles, and big-headed turtles. Photo caption: Eastern box turtle. Photo credit: © Jarek Tuszynski/Wikimedia Commons

News Release


Many States regulate the sale of black bear parts.  Photo credit: USFWS Northeast Region

Bear Parts Dealer Fined, Forfeits Cadillac

January 16, 2014

A former Maine resident and restaurant owner investigated by Service and State officers was fined $5,000 and ordered to forfeit his $70,000 Cadillac Escalade in connection with the unlawful purchase and interstate sale of black bear gall bladders and bear paws. Photo caption: Many States regulate the sale of black bear parts. Photo credit: USFWS Northeast Region

News Release


Nurse shark. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Florida Man & Company Sentenced for Shark Trafficking

January 14, 2014

A Florida marine life dealer and his business both pleaded guilty to Lacey Act charges in connection with buying and selling unlawfully harvested juvenile nurse sharks. Together the defendants must pay $2,000 in criminal fines and $5,500 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for use in marine conservation work in the Florida Keys. Photo caption: Nurse shark. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

News Release


Walrus. Photo credit: Bud Christman/NOAA

Wasting Away

January 15, 2014

An Alaska resident was sentenced to serve 15 months in Federal prison for his actions in connection with the illegal take of a walrus from a state game sanctuary on Round Island in May 2011. He and a co-defendant (who was prosecuted for both firearms and wildlife violations) killed the animal, hacked off its tusks, and left the carcass to waste in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other laws. Photo caption: Walrus. Photo credit: Bud Christman/NOAA

News Release


While the American alligator is no longer considered endangered, hunting and other activities are still regulated by Texas and other States to ensure that species populations remain robust. Photo credit: Donald W. DeLoach Jr./Wikimedia Commons

Gator Guide Fined

January 15, 2014

A commercial hunting guide who arranged an illegal alligator hunt for a paying client has been ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. The guide pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act in connection with the hunt. Photo caption: While the American alligator is no longer considered endangered, hunting and other activities are still regulated by Texas and other States to ensure that species populations remain robust. Photo credit: Donald W. DeLoach Jr./Wikimedia Commons

News Release


Cliff swallows often build their nests on walls beneath bridges and overpasses. Photo credit: Ingrid Taylar/Wikimedia Commons

Company Pays More than $370,000 for Destroying Bird Eggs, Nests

January 14, 2014

A Service investigation of a Kansas construction company that was responsible for the destruction of 818 cliff swallow eggs and some 1,491 nests at the site of a bridge repair project in Harper County, Oklahoma, has secured the payment of $372,750 to the Service-managed North American Wetlands Conservation Fund. The company agreed to make the payment as part of a non-prosecution agreement. Photo caption:Cliff swallows often build their nests on walls beneath bridges and overpasses. Photo credit: Ingrid Taylar/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

Black rhino in Tanzania. Photo credit: Ikiwaner/Wikimedia Commons

Irishman Gets Prison Term for Rhino Horn Trafficking

January 10, 2014

A member of an Irish crime group who was investigated for rhino horn trafficking by Service special agents working on Operation Crash has been sentenced to 14 months in prison by a Federal judge in Brooklyn, New York. The man was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and forfeit $50,000 in illegal proceeds. Photo caption: Black rhino in Tanzania. Photo credit: Ikiwaner/Wikimedia Commons

News Release

FWS LE agent bage. Credit: USFWS

Pair Indicted for Smuggling Rare Boa

January 8, 2014

The owner of a reptile business in Utah and his sister have been indicted by a Federal grand jury on conspiracy and three other felony counts in connection with the smuggling of a wild-caught white boa constrictor. Offspring of the snake, which was unlawfully purchased from a zoo in Brazil and then smuggled to the U.S. with the help of a veterinarian in Guyana, were being sold to buyers in this country and overseas for tens of thousands of dollars. Photo caption: FWS LE Special Agent badge.. Photo credit: USFWS

News Release

Bobcat on a tree. Photo credit: G. Kramer/USFWS

Outfitter & Guide Charged in Big Cat Hunting Scheme

January 9, 2014

A Colorado big game outfitter and one of his guides have been charged with conspiracy, wildlife trafficking, and creating false records in connection with commercial hunts for which they first captured and maimed mountain lions and bobcats and then released them so waiting clients could easily kill them. The pair are the subjects of a 17-count indictment based on a cooperative investigation involving Service special agents and State wildlife officers from Colorado and Utah. Photo caption: Bobcat on a tree. Photo credit: G. Kramer/USFWS

News Release

Narwhals, which have one extremely long tusk, are protected from commercial exploitation under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Photo credit: Glenn Williams/Wikimedia Commons

Two Plead Guilty to Trafficking Narwhal Tusks

January 7, 2014

Two Tennessee residents who bought and sold at least $1.5 million worth of illegally imported narwhal tusks have pleaded guilty to Federal felony charges of conspiracy and wildlife trafficking. Special agents from the Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration teamed with wildlife investigators from Environment Canada to document this trafficking. Photo caption: Narwhals, which have one extremely long tusk, are protected from commercial exploitation under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Photo credit: Glenn Williams/Wikimedia Commons

News Release


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Last updated: July 7, 2014