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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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Smuggler of Endangered Butterflies Gets 21 Months in Federal Prison
California-Nevada Offices , April 16, 2007
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Evidence presented in the case included this pair of endangered Queen Alexandra's birdwings, the largest butterfly in the world.(USFWS Photo)
Evidence presented in the case included this pair of endangered Queen Alexandra's birdwings, the largest butterfly in the world.(USFWS Photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

A Japanese man who described himself to federal investigators as "the world's most wanted butterfly smuggler," was sentenced today in federal court in Los Angeles to 21 months in prison for trafficking in rare butterfly species protected by U.S. and international law.  Hisayoshi Kojima, 57, of Kyoto, Japan was also ordered to pay a $30,000 fine, $7,656 in restitution to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and $1,175 court assessment.


Service special agents began investigating Kojima in 2003 after an insect dealer in Texas told agents of Kojima's reputation within the trade as the world's top smuggler of rare and protected butterflies.  Investigators learned Kojima's smuggling network spanned the globe. He routinely produced endangered butterflies from the South Pacific, Caribbean and Spain, including one pair of Queen Alexandra's birdwings, an endangered species that is the largest butterfly in the world.  Kojima sold the pair to an undercover agent for $8,500.


"He was able to produce butterflies for sale that are almost never seen in commercial trade, or even made available to university collections," said Special Agent Ed Newcomer who led the three-year investigation.  "During the last months of our investigation, Kojima offered to sell me a variety of species of endangered or protected butterfly that had a collective value of more than $294,000."


Newcomer said Kojima was well aware of his reputation as a top smuggler, and once bragged to Newcomer that he'd been able to outsmart a federal agent who investigated him in 1999 for illegally collecting endangered butterflies from national parks in California, Nevada and Arizona.  "During one of our undercover meetings, he told me he was the world's most wanted butterfly smuggler," Newcomer said.


Kojima was indicted by a grand jury and arrested in July 2006.  He pleaded guilty in January to 17 criminal charges related to the sale and smuggling of butterfly species including five counts of illegally offering to sell endangered species, five counts of importing wildlife contrary to law, five counts of smuggling wildlife and two counts of illegally importing endangered species. All of the species involved in the case are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species  of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the federal Endangered Species Act.


Included in the list of rare butterflies Kojima offered for sale was the endangered Giant Swallowtail butterfly, Papilio homerus, the largest butterfly in the western hemisphere. The species is depicted on the $1,000 Jamaican banknote.  Forty three specimens of rare butterfly were sold to undercover agents, including two Ornithoptera alexandrae; two Papilio chikae; six Papilio hospiton; three Ornithoptera paradesia; two  Ornithoptera  victoriae; two Ornithoptera meridionalis; three Bhutanitis lidderdalii; and 23 other species.





Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov
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