A pair of reptile dealers smuggled pythons and other long-protected species out of the United States with the help of a Miami, Florida man, the US Attorney’s Office said.
Now, one of the reptile traffickers will enter prison after the conviction of the others involved, according to the Department of Justice. The prosecution says that at least 107 crimes were committed in this case.
As part of the smuggling scheme, the prosecution reported, almost 9,000 reptiles, valued at more than $5 million and protected by an international treaty, were illegally shipped to Asia.
This went on for several years, as the two reptile traffickers often traveled to the United States to employ the Miami man, who owns a reptile breeding business in the city, as their “conduit” to smuggle out the specimens. the country, court documents say.
A judge sentenced the reptile smuggler, a Canadian national, to one year and two months in federal prison on Monday, January 30, the Justice Department announced in a press release. The other reptile trader was sentenced to one year and one month in prison in February 2022.
Sam Rabin, the lawyer for the first man, told the McClatchy News on January 31 that his client was “sincerely sorry” for the case and “took full responsibility for his actions.”
Rabin also represented the second reptile dealer, but declined to comment on his sentence. McClatchy News contacted attorneys representing the Miami man, who authorities say was sentenced to one year and one day in prison in November, for comment and did not immediately hear back.
The 8,738 protected animals smuggled out of the United States were species listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which means they could become extinct if their trade is not strictly regulated. according to the prosecution.
Authorities reported that in addition to ball and blood pythons and Argentine tegus, common tegus and iguanas were also smuggled.
How did illegal reptile smuggling work?
The two reptile dealers ran a reptile business in Hong Kong, according to the complaint. The last convicted trader had a history of exporting snakes, turtles and geckos from the United States to Hong Kong, according to the complaint.
The two men were traveling to the United States to purchase protected reptiles and working with the Miami man, owner of Dynasty Reptiles, to smuggle them in under false documentation, according to the indictment. Specifically, they are accused of using the Miami man’s CITES permit and submitting fraudulent documentation to the US government to do so.
Under the CITES treaty, trade in threatened or endangered species is carried out legally through permits, authorities explained.
The “fraudulent shipments” of protected species made by the men also contained 61,622 animals, including several contraband animals, not protected by the CITES treaty, according to prosecutors.
The men “abused a system set up to expedite the export of captive-bred reptiles for law-abiding breeders,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Division of Environment and Natural Resources said in a statement.
“They allowed other businessmen to sell and ship reptiles to buyers in Asia without going through the federal agency vetting process.”
The trio was also charged with conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, which seeks to stop illegal wildlife trafficking, prosecutors said.
Each pleaded guilty “to conspiring to falsely label wildlife being exported from the United States and to smuggling goods and merchandise out of the United States, as well as submitting false records and false identification of wildlife intended for export.” , according to the statement.
Rabin said the prison sentence handed down to the most recently convicted man fell short of the guidelines recommended by prosecutors because his client “dealt exclusively with captive-bred animals, as opposed to those taken from the wild, conduct historically outlawed by CITES and the Lacey Act.
Source: El Nuevo Herald