An Irish traveller has pleaded guilty to smuggling a cup made of endangered rhinoceros horn from Miami to London
Michael Hegarty faces up to ten years in prison for fraudulently facilitating the transportation and concealment of a libation cup carved from the horn of an Indian rhinoceros. The 40-year-old will be sentenced in Florida next month.
He faces a maximum penalty of up to ten years in prison, followed by a term of supervised release of up to three years, and a maximum fine of $250,000 (£188,500), or up to twice the gross gain.
Hegarty travelled to Miami from London in April 2012 and convinced a Miami resident to purchase the horn from an auction house in North Carolina. They told the individual they could repair the cup’s flaw to enhance its value if they sent it to their associates in the UK.
The buyer wired $57,500 (£43,350) from a US bank account to the auction house and Hegarty arranged to have the horn delivered to Florida.
An associate of his smuggled the cup to the UK in his luggage without declaring it, and was arrested in London, along with two more Irishman, for trying to sell the same cup to a Hong Kong buyer. Hegarty was arrested on the charges through an INTERPOL Red Notice and extradited to the United States from Belgium.
His co-conspirator was convicted on unrelated charges in England, is currently incarcerated there, and is still wanted to face wildlife trafficking charges in the Southern District of Florida.
“Trafficking in endangered and threatened species is illegal,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Greenberg. “Together with our law enforcement partners, we will strictly enforce the laws that protect our environment and our wildlife. The international community strongly supports these enforcement efforts and is capable of finding and holding accountable these criminals wherever they attempt to hide.”
“By trafficking in wildlife products, such as items made from a rhinoceros horn, smugglers are fuelling the illegal trade in endangered wildlife, which may ultimately lead to the species extinction,” said Ed Grace, Acting Assistant Director of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“I am proud of our special agents who exposed this complex, international scheme that spanned many international borders.
“This case showed the direct link between wildlife trafficking and transnational organized crime and reinforced our commitment to continue working with U.S. and international partners to pursue these criminals who profit from the illegal trade in wildlife.”