Metro Atlanta Piano Company and CEO Sentenced for Smuggling Illegal Elephant Ivory into the United States
A-440 Piano Shipments to Be Monitored for Three Years
March 11, 2011
Patrick Crosby, United States Attorney's Office, (404)581-6016, fax (404)581-6160
Tom MacKenzie, USFWS, Tom_MacKenzie@fws.gov, 404/679-7291.
A piano with the keys removed. Credit: USFWS.
A crate with keys. Credit: USFWS.
Seized keys. Credit: USFWS.
ATLANTA, GA - A-440 PIANOS, INC., a Georgia corporation, and its Chief Executive Officer, PASCAL VIEILLARD, 49, of Lilburn, Georgia, were sentenced today by United States District Judge Richard W. Story for illegally shipping internationally protected elephant ivory into the United States.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “A-440 Pianos and its CEO deliberately violated laws that govern the importation of elephant ivory. Because they chose not to follow the law, in addition to having federal convictions, the company and its CEO will be monitored closely for several years and will pay hefty fines. Our message to commercial enterprises is clear: this office will prosecute violations of laws that were designed to promote the viability of endangered species.”
Southeast Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, Special Agent in Charge James Gale said, “The wildlife violation that occurred in this case is a prime example of the continued desire for ivory and ivory products. The response to supply and demand has fueled the unlawful activities associated with providing these products to consumers. The sentence handed down today should serve as evidence that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues its vigilance enforcing wildlife laws pertaining to the unlawful commercialization of endangered and threatened wildlife and wildlife listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.”
“Cooperative investigations and inspections with our federal, state and local partners continue to produce positive results in our ongoing efforts against prohibited and illegal importations,” stated Area Port Director Robert Fencel, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations, Charleston.
A-440 PIANOS was sentenced to 3 years of probation with the condition that all pianos imported by A-440 PIANOS are brought through the Port of Atlanta. A-440 PIANOS was ordered to pay a $17,500 fine. VIEILLARD was sentenced to 3 years probation and also ordered to pay a $17,500 fine. The unlawfully imported ivory was forfeited to the United States.
On November 18, 2010, A-440 PIANOS pleaded guilty in federal district court to one felony count of smuggling elephant ivory into the United States. That same day, VIEILLARD, its C.E.O., pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act by illegally importing pianos that contained elephant ivory.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: A-440 PIANOS, based in Atlanta, Georgia, imports, exports, and sells pianos to domestic and international customers. In September 2009, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agents received information from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (“CITES”) Secretariat’s office in Geneva, Switzerland, that a representative of A-440 PIANOS had made an inquiry regarding CITES documentation requirements. Within a few weeks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists inspected a piano shipment imported by A-440 PIANOS. The invoice accompanying the U.S. Customs and Border Protection entry packet declared ten of the eleven pianos in the shipment as having “no ivory keys.” No CITES permits or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declarations accompanied the shipment. Two pianos had the keyboards removed and five pianos had the individual keys removed. Investigators noted that two piano keyboards were located in the bottom of a crate under furniture and personal effects. The individual keys were located in a crate under a tray of marking pens. The keyboards and individual keys were positively identified to be covered with elephant ivory, which requires a permit to be imported or exported.
The Lacey Act, enacted in 1900, is the first national wildlife law and was passed to assist states in enforcing wildlife laws. It provides additional protection to fish, wildlife, and plants that were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of state, tribal, foreign, or federal law. The Endangered Species Act is the U.S. domestic law that implements the CITES. Each of the two species of elephant is listed in CITES Appendix I, is subject to strict trade regulations, and requires permits to be imported or exported.
This case was investigated by Special Agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists and Officers, Office of Field Operations, Charleston, S.C.
Assistant United States Attorney Mary C. Roemer prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or John Horn, First Assistant United States Attorney, through Yvette Comer, at (404) 581-6335. The Internet address for the Home Page for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.