An Irishman linked to a criminal clan pleaded guilty today to charges he used forged documents to sell horns from endangered black rhinos to a New York collector for more than £30,000.
Michael Slattery wept, rubbed his face and waved his arms before entering the plea in federal court in Manhattan, prompting US District Judge John Gleeson to comment: “You look like a nervous wreck.”
Slattery, 23, told the judge he barely knows how to read but understood the trafficking charges.
“I knew I was doing wrong,” he said.
Asked later by the judge how he was doing in jail, Slattery claimed that one inmate had threatened to “spin my head off”, and that he’d overheard conversations about how a murder suspect “wanted me to sleep with him.”
They cited a letter from gardaí linking him to a criminal network based in the Co Limerick village of Rathkeale that is suspected in dozens of thefts of rhino horns across Europe.
In Rathkeale, the gang have purchased “most of the real estate in this town in recent years and shown incredible signs of wealth,” the letter said.
According to Europol, thieves known as the Rathkeale Rovers have targeted museums, galleries, zoos, auction houses, antique dealers and private collections in Britain, continental Europe, the United States and South America.
It says they were behind a heist this year by masked men who stole stuffed rhinoceros heads containing eight valuable horns from the warehouse of Ireland’s National Museum. More....