WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1998:

BROWNSVILLE , Texas– – T h e
U.S. Customs Service and Fish and Wildlife
Service on May 29 wrapped up Operation
Jungle Trade, a three-year undercover sting,
with the arrests of 37 alleged wildlife traffickers
in Texas, Colorado, Tennessee, and
Missouri, issuance of warrants against several
others, and simultaneous press conferences
at the Gladys Porter Zoo in
Brownsville and the San Antonio Zoo.
The sting apprehended 654 animals
in all, including 635 tropical birds, among
whom were macaws, yellow-headed Amazon
parrots, Mexican red-headed parrots,
conures, and toucans.
Among the mammals were 14 spider
monkeys, a kinkajou, a Mexican lynx,
and a puma.


The arrests came just 24 hours after
USFWS and the Oklahoma Department of
Wildlife Conservation obtained penalties
including 180 days under house arrest, five
years on probation, and a $10,000 fine
against alleged wildlife parts trafficker Jay
Villermarette. Earlier, Villermarette associates
Henry Galiano and Larry Aumiller
agreed to pay fines of $25,000 and $10,000,
respectively. Galiano is owner of a New
York City business called Maxilla and
Mandible. Aumiller is an employee of the
Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The
USFWS investigation reportedly brought
seizure of more than 450 skulls, skeletons,
carcasses, and other parts of endangered
and/or protected species.
A fourth suspect, Jan Cools of
Belgium, is not expected to come to the U.S.
to face indictment.
The USFWS won another round
against trafficking on June 14, as the 11th
District U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta
ordered that Kei Tomono of Chiba City,
Japan, be re-sentenced for allegedly trying to
smuggle an estimated $70,000 worth of turtles
and snakes into the U.S. in August 1997.
A lower court judge, accepting Tomono’s
claim of cultural ignorance, gave him just
five years on probation and fined him
$5,200––a much lighter penalty than federal
sentencing guidelines would indicate.
“By definition,” the 11th District
three-judge panel held, “imported wildlife
comes from other countries. Presumably a
significant portion of illegally imported
wildlife will be imported by people from
other countries, many of whom will have an
imperfect understanding of U.S. customs
law.”

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