Xiao Ju Guan, aka “Tony Guan,” 39, of Richmond, British Columbia, was sentenced on March 25 in United States federal court to 30 months in prison for smuggling rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory, and coral from the United States to Canada. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain ordered Guan to forfeit wildlife items found during a search of his Canadian antiques business.
Calling it “a very serious offense,” Judge Swain said that Guan “helped to feed a hot market for these goods” and further stated that the defendant’s conduct “feeds demand for the slaughter of rare and already endangered species.”
Guan was arrested in March 2014 as part of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide crackdown on the illegal trafficking in rhinoceros horns, for his role in smuggling and attempting to smuggle rhinoceros horns and items carved from elephant ivory and coral from auction houses throughout the United States to Canada.
Guan, the president and owner of Bao Antiques in Richmond, British Columbia, was arrested after flying from Vancouver, British Columbia, to New York City and purchasing two endangered black rhinoceros horns from undercover special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a storage facility in the Bronx, New York. After purchasing the horns, Guan had the undercover agents drive him and a female accomplice acting as his interpreter to a nearby express mail store where he mailed the horns to an address in Point Roberts, Washington, less than a mile from the Canadian border and 17 miles from his business. Guan falsely labeled the box of black rhinoceros horns as containing “handicrafts.” Guan indicated that he had people who could drive the horns across the border and that he had done so many times before.
At the same time Guan was arrested in the United States, Canadian authorities executed a search warrant at his antiques business in Richmond. Canadian law enforcement seized various wildlife objects from the business, nine of which have been positively identified as wildlife objects purchased in the United States via a New York City-based Internet auction business. These items, made from elephant ivory and coral, were smuggled out of the Unites States and into Canada without the required declaration or Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permits. Some were shipped directly to Canada, and others were sent, at Guan’s direction, to addresses near the U.S./Canadian border in Point Roberts. Guan also recruited college-age family members and acquaintances to assist him with smuggling the wildlife items.
In addition, during the search of Guan’s business, Canadian law enforcement also discovered illegal narcotics, including approximately 50,000 ecstasy pills.
All species of rhinoceros are protected under U.S. and international law. Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under CITES, a treaty signed by over 170 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife, and plants that are or may become imperiled because of the demands of international markets. Rhinoceros are also protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which further regulates trade and transport.