Office of Law Enforcement
Conserving the Nature of America in the Southwest Region
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Southwest Region Office of Law Enforcement

 

Stories


No hunting sign at a Southwest Region refuge. Credit: USFWS.

The Southwest Region covers the States of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma and shares over 1,650 miles of border with Mexico. The Region contains diverse fish and wildlife resources, including over 250 species of fish, wildlife, and plants that are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. It encompasses habitats that range from lowland deserts and seemingly endless plains to gulf coast beaches and towering mountain peaks.

Wildlife law enforcement efforts are coordinated with State game and fish agencies and with Federal counterparts; new partnerships include increased liaison with the U.S. Marshals Service in the Southwest. Special agents and wildlife inspectors in the Region provide law enforcement support to more than 40 National Wildlife Refuges, 27 National Parks, 20 National Forests, over 30 million square miles of other Federal and State land areas, over 100 distinct Native American tribal areas, and 24 Customs ports of entry.

Challenges in the Region range from protecting endangered Mexican wolves to foiling interstate trafficking of wildlife ranging from freshwater fish to big game species. Enforcement work includes promoting compliance under Federal wildlife laws by oil and gas producers and other industries whose activities affect protected birds; inspecting wildlife imports and exports at two designated ports (Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston) and four border crossings (Nogales, Arizona, and Brownsville, El Paso, and Laredo in Texas); and partnering with Service biologists to address issues affecting protected species and their habitat.

 

Law Enforcement News

Grand Jury Indicts "Joe Exotic" for Murder-For-Hire

September 2018
JOSEPH MALDONADO-PASSAGE, also known as Joseph Allen Maldonado, Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, and "Joe Exotic," 55, formerly of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, has been indicted on two counts of hiring a person to commit murder.

Read the entire news release.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional pieces of fraudulent artwork seized by Service special agents. Credit: USFWS.
Additional pieces of fraudulent artwork seized by Service special agents. Credit: USFWS.
Owner Of Old Town Albuquerque Jewelry Stores Sentenced To Six Months For Fraudulently Selling Filipino-Made Jewelry As Native American-Made
Conviction under Continuing International Investigation Led by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FBI into Violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act

August 2018

U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera of the District of New Mexico today sentenced Nael Ali, 54, of Albuquerque, N.M., for violating the Indian Arts and Craft Act (IACA) by fraudulently selling counterfeit Native American jewelry as Indian-Made. Judge Herrera sentenced Ali, who previously pled guilty to two felony IACA charges, to six months of imprisonment followed by a year of supervised release. Ali also was ordered to pay $9,048.78 in restitution.

Pieces of fraudulent artwork seized by Service special agents. Credit: USFWS
Pieces of fraudulent artwork seized by Service special agents. Credit: USFWS

The IACA prohibits the offer or display for sale, or the sale of any good in a manner that falsely suggests that it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian tribe. The law is designed to prevent products from being marketed as “Indian made,” when the products are not, in fact, made by Indians. It covers all Indian or Indian-style traditional and contemporary arts and crafts produced after 1935, and broadly applies to the marketing of arts and crafts by any person in the United States. IACA provides critical economic benefits for Native American cultural development by recognizing that forgery and fraudulent Indian arts and crafts diminish the livelihood of Native American artists and craftspeople by lowering both market prices and standards.

Read the News Release

 

Trafficked endangered lion and tiger parts. Credit: Brian Gourgues, USFWS.
Trafficked endangered lion and tiger parts. Credit: Brian Gourgues, USFWS.

New York Man Sentenced to Prison for Trafficking in Endangered Lion and Tiger Parts

August 2018
Arongkron “Paul” Malasukum, 42, a resident of Woodside, New York, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant, III, in Sherman, Texas, to nine months in prison to be followed by one year of supervised release for illegally trafficking parts from endangered African lions and tigers. As part of his plea, Malasukum admitted that between April 9, 2015 and June 29, 2016, he purchased and exported from the United States to Thailand approximately 68 packages containing skulls, claws, and parts from endangered and protected species, with a total fair market value in excess of $150,000.

Read the entire story...

 

Wildlife Inspector. Credit: Bryan Landry, USFWS.
Wildlife Inspector. Credit: Bryan Landry, USFWS.
Service, Global Wildlife Officers Bring the Thunder in Worldwide Anti-trafficking Effort

June 2018
Snakes, songbirds and monkeys are just a few live species law enforcement officers from around the globe intercepted during Operation Thunderstorm. They also found shells, skins and other parts of protected species, and dangerous injurious species such as the giant African land snails, which were seized in New York.

Read the Blog »
Learn More about Operation Thunderstorm »

Read the Associated Press newsclip...

Browse the International photo album

 

Mexican Wolf
Mexican Wolf. Credit: Jim Clark/USFWS

Catron County Man Sentenced for Federal Misdemeanor Wildlife Violation Arising Out of Killing of Mexican Gray Wolf

May 2018
U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson and Acting Special Agent in Charge Phillip Land of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement of the Southwest Region, announced that Craig Thiessen pleaded guilty yesterday to a federal misdemeanor wildlife violation arising out of the taking of a Mexican gray wolf.  Immediately after entering the guilty plea, Thiessen was sentenced to a one-year term of probation and was ordered to pay $2,300 in restitution to the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.

Read the news release

 

Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board Special Agent badge.
California Man Arraigned on Federal Indictment Charging Him with Scheme to Fraudulently Create and Sell Jewelry as Native American-Made Trade

April 2018
Robert Haack, 51, of Los Angeles, Calif., was arraigned on April 27, 2018 on a federal indictment charging him with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by fraudulently creating and selling jewelry as Native American-made. The indictment, which was filed by a federal grand jury sitting in Albuquerque, N.M., on March 28, 2018, was the result of a federal investigation led by the U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.

Read the News Release

 

 


Ruby-throated hummingbird on cardinal flower. Credit: Bill Buchanan, USFWS.

Illegal Hummingbird Trade

April 2018
Hummingbirds are critically important pollinators, found only in the Americas. Their center of origin is in the tropics, and there are 18 species that migrate into the US. They can live for up to 12 years or more, and tend to return to the same places, they are quite intelligent, and teach their young how to return to locations and forage for nectar in the same areas. The hummingbird family, Trochilidae, was listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1987, including an estimated 328 species. Appendix II allows commercial trade, but the species must be accompanied by a permit that signifies it was obtained sustainably and legally. The CITES listing (read the CITES listing at https://www.cites.org/sites/default/files/eng/cop/06/prop/proposals/E06-Prop-32_Trochilidae.PDF ) was proposed by Ecuador because of a growing pet trade - apparently much of it illegal! A quick look at the CITES trade data for this family indicates that international trade is dominated by specimens or bodies for scientific purposes. There seems to be little international trade in live animals - legal trade that is!

Read the April issue of National Geographic, Inside the Black Market Hummingbird Love Charm Trade, on illegal hummingbird trade in Mexico and the US.

 

 


The injured male golden eagle will spend the rest of its life in captivity. Credit: USFWS.
Eagle Shootings Under Investigation in New Mexico
Reward offered for information

March 2018
NEW MEXICO - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is investigating the shootings of a bald eagle and a golden eagle found at the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI) in the Navajo Nation.

The bald eagle was found shot with no tail feathers on March 13, 2018 in area seven of NAPI. The bald eagle later died due to its injuries. The Service’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory will conduct a necropsy to verify the cause of death.

Read the news release.

 

 

 


Bald eagle. Credit: USFWS.

Bald Eagle Death Under Investigation in Oklahoma
Reward offered for information

January 2018
McCurtain County, OKLAHOMA- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is investigating the death of bald eagle found adjacent to a rural county road, approximately seven miles west of Broken Bow in McCurtain County, Oklahoma.

The eagle was discovered by a local rancher who notified the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The eagle carcass exhibited indications it was shot with a high-powered rifle. Additional evidence was recovered at the scene. The Service’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory is conducting a necropsy to verify the cause of death.

Read the news release.


Southwest Region Archived News Releases

Search additional archived news releases for the Southwest Region

Search Department of Justice archived Case Summaries.

 

 
Case study of Southwest Law Enforcement working with industry
 
A Forensic Lab Solves Crimes Against Animals
 
Bowie County Man Sentenced for Federal Violations
 

Law Enforcement Accomplishments Reports

Accomplishments Annual Report 2016
 
Accomplishments Annual Report 2015
 
Accomplishments Annual Report 2014
Last updated: September 7, 2018