Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Five Individuals, Hawaiian Accessories Inc. Sentenced in Illegal Wildlife Smuggling Operation

July 26, 2016

Contact(s):

Brent Lawrence, 503-231-6211 or brent_lawrence@fws.gov

Ally Rogers, 301-427-8255 or allyson.rogers@noaa.gov


A joint undercover operation exposed the intricate scheme to purchase ivory and bone products from other states, bring them into Hawaii, smuggle them to the Philippines to be carved and smuggle them back to Hawaii to be sold to unsuspecting tourists and residents as genuine Hawaiian-made products.

A joint undercover operation exposed the intricate scheme to purchase ivory and bone products from other states, bring them into Hawaii, smuggle them to the Philippines to be carved and smuggle them back to Hawaii to be sold to unsuspecting tourists and residents as genuine Hawaiian-made products. Credit: USFWS

HONOLULU, Hawaii — Kauiokaala Chung, the final defendant associated with Hawaiian Accessories, Inc., has been sentenced for her role in the company’s conspiracy to smuggle and sell illegally acquired ivory, bone, and coral carvings and jewelry made from whale, walrus, black coral, and other wildlife.

The sentencing was the culmination of a two-year joint undercover investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Office of Law Enforcement and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement. The smuggling ring was uncovered in 2014.

The company, Hawaiian Accessories, Inc., its president/CEO Curtis Wilmington, Chung, and three other defendants have each been sentenced relative to an earlier indictment that included felony charges of conspiracy, smuggling wildlife into and out of the United States, Lacey Act Wildlife Trafficking, and Lacey Act False Labeling. In the last several weeks, the Court sentenced the defendants as follows:

  • Hawaiian Accessories, Inc. and Curtis Wilmington were charged with and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to smuggle protected wildlife into the United States. The Court sentenced Curtis Wilmington to six months in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and $40,000 fine. The Court placed the company on five years of probation and fined it $50,000. He also surrendered approximately $100,000 of merchandise to the government.
  • Kauilani Wilmington, general manager for Hawaiian Accessories, was charged with and pleaded guilty to Lacey Act wildlife trafficking. The Court sentenced Kauilani Wilmington to two years of probation, six months of home detention, and a $5,000 fine.
  • Elmer Biscocho, an employee of Hawaiian Accessories, was charged with and pleaded guilty to export smuggling of protected wildlife from the United States. The Court sentenced Elmer Biscocho to two years of probation, four months of home detention, 100 hours of community service, and a $2,500 fine.
  • Sergio Biscocho, owner and president of J.R. Wooden, a Philippines-based export company, was charged with and pleaded guilty to smuggling protected wildlife into the United States. The Court sentenced Sergio Biscocho to two years of probation, six months of home detention, and a $2,000 fine.
  • Kauiokaala Chung, an employee of the Hawaiian-based company, was charged with and pleaded guilty to Lacey Act false labeling. The Court sentenced Chung to two years of probation, six months of home detention, and a $1,000 fine.

 

The joint undercover operation exposed the intricate scheme to purchase ivory and bone products from other states, bring them into Hawaii, smuggle them to the Philippines to be carved and smuggle them back to Hawaii to be sold to unsuspecting tourists and residents as genuine Hawaiian-made products. The initial indictment listed 21 felony charges including violations of the Lacey Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

“We commend the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice and all other agencies that played a role in aiding this joint investigation and prosecution,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Chief Edward Grace. “We will continue to work with our partners to fully investigate and bring to justice individuals who choose to commercialize and profit from protected wildlife species.”

Added Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries: “To have such blatant disregard for the law relating to marine mammals and protected species is unacceptable. NOAA Fisheries has zero tolerance for wildlife trafficking crimes. This case is a tremendous example of our partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Justice, without which we would not have successfully closed this case and brought these criminals to justice.”

According to court documents, falsely manifested shipments containing smuggled whale bone or walrus ivory carvings from the Philippines to the Hawaii-based business were intercepted from October 2014 to February 2015. Before sending the shipments, Sergio Biscocho, owner and president of the Philippines-based export company, separately sent packing lists reflecting the true contents to the other defendants charged in this case.

From November 2014 to April 2015, undercover agents purchased whale bone and walrus ivory carvings from Hawaiian Accessories. From June 2013 to May 2015, Curtis Wilmington knowingly ordered and received illegal shipments of black coral carvings from Mexico. Additionally, he purchased raw contemporary sperm whale teeth and walrus ivory. The business also sold what the agencies determined to be “proboscidean” ivory (i.e. either elephant or mammoth), which could not easily be distinguished. Elephant ivory is highly regulated but mammoth ivory is generally unregulated. In some instances, the business falsely marketed and sold illegal walrus ivory as being “fossil” and “mammoth.”


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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