Earlier today, a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn detained an Irish national who was arrested on Saturday and charged in a complaint for false labeling in connection with his alleged role in international rhinoceros horn smuggling in violation of the Lacey Act. The arrest and charge is a result of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide effort led by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horns.
The Department of Justice filed a complaint in federal court in the Eastern District of New York alleging that Michael Slattery, Jr., a 25-year-old Irish national, fraudulently purchased a set of black rhinoceros horns in Texas and then travelled to New York and used a falsified document to sell the horns for $50,000.
The charge and arrest were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division.
According to the complaint filed in on September 14, 2013, in 2010 Slattery traveled from England to Texas to acquire black rhinoceros horns. Slattery and others then used a day laborer with a Texas driver’s license as a straw buyer to purchase two horns from an auction house in Austin. The complaint charges that Slattery and his group then traveled to New York where they presented a fraudulent Endangered Species Bill of Sale and sold those two and two other horns to an individual for $50,000.
According to court records and government statements made in court, Slattery is a member of The Rathkeale Rovers (also known as the “Irish Travelers”), which are tight-knit extended family groups that live a nomadic lifestyle. The group leverages the rising price for rhinoceros horns in the black market to be used for traditional medicines and carving. More....