FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 11, 2012
Contact: Tina Shaw, 612-713-5331, firstname.lastname@example.org
Billiard Company Fined $150,000 for Illegally Exporting African Elephant Ivory
A Skokie, Ill. company pleaded guilty yesterday and was fined $150,000 for illegally exporting African elephant ivory, as well as products made from other protected wildlife, to foreign customers. Through coordinated efforts, this case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Office of Law Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations, with the assistance of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
On January 10, 2012 the defendant, Atlas Fibre Company (Atlas), parent company of Atlas Billiard Supplies, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, for illegally exporting elephant ivory billiard parts in violation of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Atlas, which manufactures and distributes fiber, plastic and other materials for industrial applications, had a division called Atlas Billiard Supplies that sold parts involved in fabricating billiard cue sticks, including African elephant ivory, shell products and leathers made from the hides of elephants, monitor lizards, kangaroo, ostrich and shark.
At issue in this case is the illegal export of ivory from African elephants (Loxodonta africana). African elephants are listed as endangered and are protected under the ESA and CITES because of their fragile status in the wild. As part of the protections afforded African elephants, the commercial exportation of elephant parts, including ivory, can only be done when certain permit conditions are met. Ivory is highly valued in certain industries, including the billiard industry, which machines the ivory into various parts, typically as rings or ends of pool cues for decoration.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the USFWS Midwest Region Warren Buhl stresses the importance of this case, saying that the “Laws governing the international trade of wildlife are essential to the protection of endangered species like the African elephant and we will remain vigilant, along with our law enforcement and conservation partners, to curtail illegal wildlife trafficking,”
Buhl goes on to say that, “Investigations and prosecutions such as this are crucial for the welfare of our world's wildlife resources.”
Magistrate Judge Sidney I. Schenkier in U.S. District Court immediately sentenced Atlas under the terms of a plea agreement, placing the company on probation for one year, in addition to imposing the $150,000 fine, which will be paid to the USFWS Lacey Act Reward Fund. This fund is utilized by the USFWS to pay for care of live wildlife being held as evidence, other evidence handling, and the payment of rewards for information from individuals about criminal activity.
Magistrate Schenkier also ordered Atlas to pay the Service $13,701 in restitution to the USFWS for lost revenue incurred from exports of wildlife products by Atlas over several years.
“Failing to obtain necessary export permits is not merely a technical violation of the law,” said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “It is a crime to intentionally export protected wildlife parts and products without a permit to ensure that we protect, not profiting from, threatened or endangered species.”
Atlas admitted that its billiard supplies division sold approximately 61 pieces of worked African elephant ivory valued at $3,057 to a customer in Japan in October 2006 without the U.S. export permit required under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Atlas intentionally removed from the shipping invoice any reference to “ivory” to help the shipment move through Japanese customs without close inspection.
Atlas also admitted as relevant conduct that, without a CITES permit, it exported African elephant ivory products valued in excess of $93,000 on approximately 129 separate occasions to customers primarily in Japan and Germany between January 2002 and November 2006. Also without a permit, Atlas exported monitor lizard and African elephant leather valued in excess of $11,700 on approximately 53 occasions between September 2005 and October 2009, as well as mother of pearl and abalone shell products and leathers made from various other protected wildlife species valued in excess of $3,799 on approximately 37 occasions between January 2005 and October 2009.
The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Chapman. For further information about the court proceedings, contact Randall Samborn 312-353-5318.
For more information on the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visit http://midwest.fws.gov.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
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