Hunting News

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Canadian Citizen Arrested for Money Laundering in Connection with Illegal Importation and Trafficking of Narwhal Tusks

A Canadian man was arrested today in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, on an extradition warrant requested by the United States for money laundering crimes related to the illegal importation and illegal trafficking of narwhal tusks, announced Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division .
On Nov. 14, 2012, a federal grand jury sitting in Bangor, Maine, returned an indictment that was partially unsealed today upon the arrest of Gregory R. Logan of Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada.   The indictment also names Jay G. Conrad of Lakeland, Tenn., and Andrew L. Zarauskas of Union, N.J.   Logan was arrested on charges in the indictment for money laundering conspiracy and substantive money laundering violations.   The indictment also charges Conrad and Zarauskas with conspiracy to smuggle narwhal tusks, money laundering conspiracy, smuggling narwhal tusks and money laundering violations.   According to the indictment, Logan illegally laundered the money earned from his illegal imports and sales of narwhal tusks in the United States.   It further charges that Conrad and Zarauskas bought the narwhal tusks from Logan, knowing the tusks had been illegally imported into the United States, and sold or attempted to sell the tusks after their illegal importation.

The arrest of Logan on an extradition warrant in Canada begins the extradition process to the U.S.   The extradition process is governed by a 1971 extradition treaty between the U.S. and Canada.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.   If convicted of these charges, the defendants each face up to twenty years in prison on each of the most serious charges, as well as fines up to $250,000.

The case was investigated by agents from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.   The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Todd S. Mikolop of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, with assistance from the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

MCA program protects base members, wildlife

by Airman 1st Class Tammie Ramsouer
JBER Public Affairs

11/26/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Sirens and emergency vehicles surround a traffic accident on base. As first responders tend to the motorist and document vehicle damage, a military conservation agent arrives to assess the condition of an animal just hit.

A homeowner opens the front door, and is suddenly face-to-face with a bull moose and it does not want to leave. What do you do? Who can you call?

On a daily basis, military conservation agents respond anything from wildlife encounters and vehicle accidents to someone destroying government property or animal habitats on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. MCA agents train to protect animals and humans from harm in experiences such as these.

These MCAs are volunteers from the base. Any active duty military member can volunteer in the MCA program by filling out an application at the Wildlife Conservation Office. Once the application process is complete, the wildlife conservation officers select participants and plan their training.

"People go through the interview process," said Tech. Sgt. Andy Lockhart, noncommissioned officer in charge of military conservation agents. "If they are selected, we quiz them about wildlife knowledge."

Upon deciding the required amount of volunteers for the current year, training begins for level-one agents.

"Once individuals are selected, usually two to three weeks later we will have a level-one class in the afternoons," Lockhart said. "It's usually about three hours each in three consecutive afternoons."

At the end of the third afternoon, the MCA trainees perform scenarios. Before November, they are required to get 40 hours of on-the-job training with level-two or level-three agents.

One of the first things they receive training on is dealing with animals during the summer, Lockhart said. He said moose blocking housing and dealing with bears in dumpsters are a large part of the job.

"They take a test in November about what we have been training on, which consists of our regulations, as well as questions from the base map to make sure they know the area," Lockhart said. "Once they pass the test, usually the first two weeks of December, we will have a six-day class, 40 hours worth of instruction and usually six to eight hours worth of real-world scenarios. In that 40 hours of instruction, agents from Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Alaska State Troopers come in and talk to the agents."

Once the level-one agents complete the class and pass everything in the scenarios, they are considered level-two agents. They get to go on two patrols with other agents on base and qualify on the M870 Remington pump-action shotgun.

Once they qualify with that weapon and go out on those two patrols with a law enforcement-qualified agent, they become law enforcement-qualified, Lockhart said. The agents are trained how to use the shotgun for a last resort in case of a life-or-death situation with an animal.

"We are trained on shot placement and the steps to take prior to aggression," Lockhart said.

The MCA program is considered a special-duty assignment once the agents reach level two.

After their second year, agents who finish all required courses in time, become level-three agents, Lockhart said. Level-three agents spend more time in the training room where they are responsible for making sure people are getting trained correctly.

The next step is to become a numbered agent.

"A numbered agent is basically in charge of making sure the program is steered in the right direction," Lockhart said.

The numbered agents make needed changes to the program's regulations and monitor the radio more often than lower-level agents. The numbered agents listen to the communication from patrol agents to make sure everything the patrol does is correctly applied.

"It's basically the overall management of the program from the top of the MCA level down," Lockhart said.

Within the numbered agents there is a top numbered agent, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the whole MCA program. The NCOIC works with the wildlife conservation officers, Mark Sledge and James Wendland, to make sure any deficiencies are corrected in a timely manner.

The MCA program as a whole sets the agents up for the law enforcement side of wildlife conservation as well as a possible direction they may want to go when they separate from the military, Lockhart said.

One of the agents accepted in the MCA program in 2012 was Senior Airman Brad Robinson, 381st Intelligence Squadron analyst.

"I've always enjoyed the outdoors, so when I found out that I could get involved with the wildlife or keep people safe on base, I was happy to be a part of the experience," Robinson said.

"Just the chance to get out there and interact with wildlife is rewarding," Robinson said. "I have definitely considered the possibilities of staying in this career field after I separate. It's something I enjoy doing."

Security Forces call the MCA agents when there is a call from a resident about wildlife on base.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


by Senior Master Sgt. Mike Hammond
JBER Public Affairs

11/21/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- A November hunting trip in the extreme North turned into a lifesaving opportunity in the blink of an eye for two master sergeants from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

It was a cold night, even by Alaska standards: 7-below temperatures with a 35-below wind chill factor. Air Force master sergeants David Barber and Morgan Cabaniss, 673d Security Forces Squadron, were on the tail end of a long drive up the Dalton Highway - known locally as "Haul Road," to join four friends in a caribou hunt.

By 11 p.m., Nov. 2, the sergeants were about a hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle and a couple of hours from their rendezvous point when Cabaniss noticed something wrong.

"We were going over Atigun Pass when we came up on a trucker. He was going really slowly, and I could see his tail lights reflecting off the road behind him," Cabaniss said. "I had just told Dave [Barber] that the road must be really slick, when the truck started to jackknife. We could see his tail lights and his headlights both pointing back at us!"
Barber explained what happened next.

"There was a turn in the road ahead of him, but he was jackknifed and slid right over the edge of the road and hit a snow bank. The truck came to rest with the cab in the snow bank and the back tires of the trailer on the road," Barber said. "But he was right at the edge of about a 600-foot drop.

"That snow was the only thing between him and the drop."

Barber stopped their vehicle about 80 yards from the wrecked semi, concerned they might join the driver in a long skid down the icy, treacherous road.

While Barber quickly began putting on heavy winter gear that had been too bulky to drive with, Cabaniss sprang into action - running toward the accident.

"I just did it; just went," Cabaniss said. "I didn't really think about it. And when I got to the edge of the road and looked down the embankment, I saw the door of the cab propped open. The trucker was wedged between the door and the side of his vehicle."

Barber said his friend's next words made the danger clear.

"We've gotta get him out of here - the truck may go down!" Cabaniss shouted.

So Cabaniss went over the edge of the road and found himself in waist-deep snow without even hitting a solid surface below. He half-swam his way to the cab and helped the dazed and injured trucker out.

Unfortunately, the trucker had not been fully geared up against the elements while driving, and the violent impact had tossed all the gear around the damaged cab.

"He was freaking out. He only had jeans and a T-shirt on, and had managed to grab a boot and a tennis shoe when he came out of the cab," Cabaniss said. "And he appeared shocked ... he kind of froze up on me."

Aside from the trucker's delayed ability to move, Cabaniss realized he would soon literally freeze up, based on the elements and lack of shoes and proper clothing.

In addition, there was still a very real possibility the truck would slide off the drop - taking them both with it to their doom.

"I told him the truck might go, and that got him moving a bit," Cabaniss said. "So I helped pull him back through that deep snow and then we got him back to our vehicle to warm up. We put a jacket on him and gave him water."

Barber said the pair then drove about 10 miles back down the road, where they'd noticed a highway maintenance station with a pay phone.

Cell phone service was non-existent in the remote area.

The trucker managed to dial a few numbers and they put out some calls on a citizen's band radio, but no one answered in either case.

About 35 minutes later, a Department of Transportation safety official finally came by the station and picked up the driver.

It was the last the master sergeants saw of the man whose life they'd saved, but they contacted his employer and learned the driver is already back out on the road.

"We found out this guy was one of the most experienced truckers operating in the area," Cabaniss said. "That fact, plus the fact that besides us, no one else would have come by for 45 minutes or more, really made me realize that in Alaska, you have to always be ready to take care of yourself.

"You can't always just run outside and yell for help or make a phone call. His truck wasn't running due to the wreck. In those temperatures, he probably wouldn't have lasted the 45 minutes until someone else came by, especially not being dressed for the weather."

Barber said the experience reinforced the need to dress properly, have all emergency supplies, and be ready and able to help yourself or others should a situation take a turn for the worse.

Cabaniss said he's been up that route many times before and has never seen something like this happen, which could lead to a false sense of safety and security.

"You just can't get complacent here," Cabaniss said.

Four Commercial Fishermen Indicted in Maryland for Illegal Harvest and Interstate Sale of Striped Bass from Chesapeake Bay

One Charged with Threatening Retaliation and Witnesses Tampering During Investigation
Four commercial fishermen and one company were indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury in Baltimore for a criminal conspiracy involving the illegal harvesting and interstate sale of striped bass on the Chesapeake Bay, announced Robert G. Dreher, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.

According to court documents, Michael D. Hayden Jr., his company, William J. Lednum, Kent Sadler and Daniel Murphy engaged in a multi-year conspiracy during which time they harvested tens of thousands of pounds of striped bass on the Chesapeake Bay in violation of Maryland fishing regulations, falsified documents filed with the State of Maryland, and then transported and sold those poached fish in interstate commerce.   In addition, after the investigation of these crimes began, it is alleged that Hayden attempted to manipulate some witnesses’ testimony while trying to outright prevent the testimony and cooperation of others.   In addition, it is alleged that in at least one incident, Hayden threatened to retaliate against another potential witness he believed to be cooperating with investigators.   Hayden was arrested on Sept. 17, 2013, having been charged in a criminal complaint with several counts of witness intimidation and retaliation.
 The 26-count indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy, and Lacey Act violations.    These charges carry possible terms of incarceration of five years.   In addition, the witness intimidation/retaliation charges against Mr. Hayden each carry a maximum-term of 20 years in prison.  

An indictment is a charging document and all defendants are innocent until proven guilty.  
This case is being investigated by criminal investigators with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Police and Special Agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.   The case is being jointly prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and the Environmental Crimes Section of the United States Department of Justice

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Hunter's Mark: Grand Forks AFB Airmen treat Wounded Warrior to first ever deer hunt

by Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/14/2013 - WARREN, MINN. -- This year's Veterans Day was marked with several opportunities to honor U.S. military veterans and while some may have been treated to a meal or a drink on the house, one Airman from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., was treated to an outdoorsman experience that would leave him a marked man.

Tech. Sgt. Joshua Robistow, a water and fuel systems technician with the 319th Civil Engineer Squadron, bagged and tagged his first white tail deer Nov. 11 on a farm just a few miles from the town of Warren, Minn.

"This was my first time hunting wild game," said Robistow. "That's if you don't count squirrels during Cool School, he added jokingly referring to the course that teaches Airmen at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, how to survive brutal Arctic elements.

Sergeant Robistow became a wounded warrior while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In November 2005, an improvised explosive device detonated and struck his Humvee while he and his team drove through the streets of Taji, a town approximately 20 miles north of Baghdad.

The explosion forced shrapnel into his back and destroyed one of the vertebrae in the lower part of this spinal column.

"Doctors used four screws on this part here," said Robistow pointing to the eight-inch long scar on his lower back. "Yeah it sucked, but it's the stuff that comes afterwards that's worse sometimes."

Robistow was referring to the chronic back pain and post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from his injuries, two things he quickly praised the Air Force and his family for helping him manage.

In addition to the PTSD and injury to his spine, the attack also left Robistow partially deaf.
"The pressure of the explosion was so great that I lost seventy percent of my hearing in my left ear and forty percent in my right, and that's why I have to wear this hearing aid," said Robistow.

Robistow wasn't complaining about his deafness during the hunt, especially not after firing a .330 caliber rifle on his first attempt at a buck from about 280 yards.

"I remembered to take the hearing aid off, but I forgot to not to put my eye so close to the scope. Man that gun had some kick to it! Anyone who doesn't think so can just look at my face," said Robistow once again with a small grin on his face while pointing to the half circle scar around the bridge of his nose and right eye.

"The purpose of this is to say thank you, for the sacrifice this Airman and his family made to our country and Air Force by getting him out for an enjoyable day of hunting -not to wound the wounded warrior," said Master Sgt. Keelan Rasmusson, the 319th Communications Squadron first sergeant, who helped coordinate the event with the help of Maj. James Oberg, who recently retired from the Air Force and whose property provided the site for Robistow's first real hunt.

"I have to admit, I was a very concerned when I saw the blood. Rasmusson and I were ready to take him to a hospital, but Sergeant Robistow was determined to stay and have a successful hunt," said Oberg.

After tending to the wound with some anti-bacterial cream and duct tape for a bandage, Robistow showed the can-do, not-till-the-mission-is-done attitude that service members are known for.

Hours went by with no deer in sight, but around 4 p.m. with the setting sun's light illuminating the woods, Robistow would literally get his second shot, only this time the only blood spilled would be that of a 80- to 90-pound, six-point buck shot down with a .223 rifle at an approximate range of 260 yards.

"My heart was racing the whole time," said Robistow in excitement while holding his chest with one hand and raising the other for high fives from Rasmusson, Oberg and Maj. Frank Burks, the commander of the 319th Comptroller Squadron, who joined the hunting group after being the guest speaker at a Veterans Day observance hosted by the American Legion in Warren, Minn.

"That was a text book shot. He shot it right behind the shoulder to hit the lungs or heart," said Burks. "It's a heck of a shot for a first-time hunter."

Burks and the other experience outdoorsmen guiding Robistow also pointed out that a shot to vital organs such as the lungs or heart is also more humane as it lessens the animal's suffering because it brings about a quicker death.

With the day drawing to a close, the veteran being thanked gave a thank you of his own.

"I just want to thank everyone who helped make this possible," said Robistow. "I want to thank Major Oberg for being a wonderful host and letting us hunt on this beautiful piece of land. I also want to thank the Grand Forks Air Force Base First Sergeants Council for providing the money to process the meat and the Top III for helping purchase the hunting clothes required and for picking up the tab for that hearty breakfast to start the day. This has been an awesome experience and I think it's both funny and fitting that as a wounded warrior I should reach my sixteen-year mark of military service, with a new wound. "

The appreciative NCO went further by humorously saying that although the experience of hunting had literally left him a marked man, he said he couldn't wait to tell the story about how he got his new wound. He later admitted it hasn't always been easy to talk about his personal wounds, whether they'd happen on or off the battlefield.

"Even though I will have to deal with the pain of my war wounds for the rest of my life, today, even just for one moment, I felt as if I had no more pain to take pills for, or therapy to go to," said Robistow. "I once again felt like I was that eighteen-year old kid from Boston, excited to serve and defend his country. I felt just like my old self before the wounds."

Two Florida Men Convicted in Philadelphia of Conspiring and Trafficking in Protected Reptiles

A federal jury today found Robroy MacInnes, 54, of Inverness, Fla., and Robert Keszey, 47, of Bushnell, Fla., guilty of conspiracy to traffic in state and federally protected reptiles.  MacInnes also was convicted of trafficking in protected timber rattlesnakes in violation of the Lacey Act.  

Between 2007 and 2008, the defendants, who own the reptile wholesaler Glades Herp Farm Inc., collected protected snakes from the wild in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, purchased protected eastern timber rattlesnakes that had been illegally collected from the wild in violation of New York law, and transported federally threatened eastern indigo snakes from Florida to Pennsylvania.  MacInnes also violated the Lacey Act by purchasing illegal eastern timber rattlesnakes and having the snakes transported from Pennsylvania to Florida.  The evidence at trial showed that the protected species were destined for sale at reptile shows in Europe, where a single timber rattlesnake can sell for up to $800.  Snakes that were not sold in Europe were sold through the defendants’ business in the United States.

“These defendants broke numerous wildlife laws seeking to profit from an illegal trade in threatened species,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “The Justice Department is committed to enforcing wildlife laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act that protect our environment and these threatened species from a destructive and dangerous black market trade.”

The eastern timber rattlesnake is a species of venomous pit viper native to the eastern United States, and is listed as threatened in New York.  It is also illegal to possess an eastern timber rattlesnake without a permit in Pennsylvania.  The eastern indigo snake, the longest native North American snake species, is listed as threatened by both Florida and federal law. 

The Lacey Act, one of the oldest statutes in the United States, prohibits interstate trafficking in wildlife known to be illegally obtained.  The maximum penalty for conspiring to commit offenses and for violations of the Lacey Act is up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Patrick M. Duggan and paralegal Ashleigh Nye of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Kay Costello of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

South Carolina Army National Guard pilots help save gravely wounded hunter

By Staff Sgt. Tracci Dorgan
South Carolina National Guard
Click photo for screen-resolution image
WALHALLA, S.C. (11/7/13) - The South Carolina Army National Guard's 2-151st Aviation and South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SCHART) teamed up to rescue a hunter Tuesday in Walhalla, S.C.

The hunter suffered a gunshot wound and needed to be airlifted to medical treatment.

"It was a successful mission. The crew did an awesome job. We had the hunter hoisted out and on his way to the hospital quickly," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mark Shuford, Black Hawk pilot for the South Carolina Army National Guard.

"He was already in shock and had lost a lot of blood," said Dan McMannis, SCHART team member.
The SCHART recovered the patient and dropped him off at the Mountain Rest Fire Department where he received medical attention and was taken to the hospital.

"I spoke to the medic who was the primary care giver and he could not say enough how we saved this man's life," said Scott Krein, Oconee County emergency management director.

"This quick response and transport of the injured hunter speaks to the professionalism and dedication of our air crews and first responders who train together," said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., the adjutant general for South Carolina. "Congratulations to the SCHART for a job well done in answering the call to save this man's life."

The South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team is a collaborative effort between the State Urban Search and Rescue Task Force and highly trained pilots and crew members from the South Carolina Army National Guard. Together they make a cohesive unit capable of performing helicopter rescue.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Irish National Pleads Guilty in New York to Crimes Relating to Illegal Trafficking of Endangered Rhinoceros Horns

Michael Slattery Jr., 25, an Irish national, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in relation to illegal rhinoceros horn trafficking, announced Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, and Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Slattery pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.  Under the terms of the plea agreement, any proceeds from the illegal trafficking that remain in the United States will be forfeited or put toward the criminal fine.  Slattery is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in the Eastern District of New York on Jan. 10, 2014.

In the plea agreement, Slattery admitted that he, along with others, traveled throughout the United States to illegally purchase and sell endangered rhinoceros horns.  Slattery was arrested in September as part of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide, multi-agency crackdown on those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horn.
“Slattery and his co-conspirators traveled to the United States to profit from the illegal trade in black rhinoceros horns,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Dreher.  “The black rhino is a species that, without our protection, could be headed for extinction in our own time. Rhino horn trafficking is a violation of the laws enacted by Congress to protect endangered species from extinction and the Justice Department will aggressively prosecute those who engage in this egregious market.”

“Today’s guilty plea highlights our commitment to protect endangered species, like the black rhinoceros, by prosecuting those who would profit from the rhinos’ extinction,” said U.S. Attorney Lynch.  “Michael Slattery traveled the world in pursuit of illicit profit from the sale of blank rhino horns.  But instead of gaining a windfall by contributing to the demise of an age-old species, Slattery now faces up to five years in prison for his illegal conduct.”

“The involvement of an alleged member of an organized criminal group in rhino horn trafficking speaks to the scope, scale, and lawlessness of this problem,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We will continue to work closely with the Department of Justice to crack down on profiteers whose crimes are pushing rhinos to the brink of extinction.”
“The black rhinoceros has been driven to the brink of extinction by this illicit trade,” said Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in New York. “HSI, along with our partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Justice, stand ready to protect these beautiful creatures from the villains who would trade the rhino’s continued existence on this planet for a quick buck.”

Rhinoceros are a herbivore species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth.  They have no known predators other than humans.  All species of rhinoceros are protected under United States and international law, and all black rhinoceros species are endangered.

Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by over 170 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets.  Nevertheless, the demand for rhinoceros horn and black market prices have skyrocketed in recent years due to the value that some cultures have placed on ornamental carvings, good luck charms or alleged medicinal purposes, leading to a decimation of the global rhinoceros population.

Operation Crash is a continuing investigation being conducted by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in coordination with other federal and local law enforcement agencies including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.  A “crash” is the term for a herd of rhinoceros.  Operation Crash is an ongoing effort to detect, deter and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinoceros and the unlawful trafficking of rhinoceros horns.  The investigation is being led by the Special Investigations Unit of the FWS Office of Law Enforcement and involves a nationwide task force of agents focused on rhino trafficking.

According to the information, plea agreement and statements made during court proceedings:

Beginning in May 2010 and continuing until April 2011, Slattery, along with others, traveled within the United States to purchase rhinoceros horns, which he, along with others, then resold to private individuals or consigned to auction houses in the United States.  The profits from the sale of the rhinoceros horns were distributed via cashier’s checks made out to Slattery and others.  Slattery used a fictitious “Endangered Species Bill of Sale” in connection with the purchase and sale of rhinoceros horns.

In September 2010, Slattery, along with others, traveled from London to Houston, where they attempted to purchase a taxidermied black rhinoceros mount with two horns from a business in Austin, Texas.  The manager of the business refused to sell the mount to the defendant because Slattery and the others did not have proof that they resided in the State of Texas.  Within days of being refused, Slattery returned to the establishment in Austin, where, with the assistance of a “straw buyer” that Slattery and his co-conspirators hired, the group purchased the mount for $18,000.  At the time of the sale, the purchasers were given an “Endangered Species Bill of Sale” that stated “[s]eller expressly states that the described taxidermy is an endangered species and that interstate or foreign sales, barter and trade are strictly prohibited …. [p]ursuant to [the Endangered Species Act].  Buyer has expressly stated that he/she is a current resident of the State of Texas and has no intention of participating in any form of interstate commerce involving the described taxidermy.” 

Following the purchase of the mount, Slattery and his co-conspirators traveled to Flushing, N.Y., where they sold the horns from the mount and other horns they had acquired to an individual for $50,000.  At the time of the sale, Slattery and his co-conspirators provided the purchaser with a false and fictitious “Endangered Species Bill of Sale.”  The “Endangered Species Bill of Sale” stated that the two pair of black rhinoceros horns were purchased in August 2010.  The falsified document also included a false and fictitious FWS emblem, which it did not have at the time of purchase from the establishment in Texas.  Pursuant to instructions from Slattery and his co-conspirators, the purchaser paid for the horns with cashier’s checks.  One check in the amount of $12,500 was made payable to Michael Slattery Jr.

U.S. Attorney Lynch and Acting Assistant Attorney General Dreher commended FWS and ICE-HSI for their outstanding work in this investigation.

The case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Nestor and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section are in charge of the prosecution.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Beautifying Mustang Valley Park

by By Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/28/2013 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea-  -- The Osan Top III council, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron and Osan Boy Scout Troop 86 with Webelos II scouts combined forces to renovate the Mustang Valley Park, Oct. 26.

"This is a community park that is not maintained by housing or CE," said Maj. Raymond Orr, 51st CES operations flight commander. "The Osan Top III, boy scouts and CE have come together and teamed up for this volunteer project for the community's benefit."

The 51st CES provided all the tools and equipment for volunteers to use during the clean-up. Members of the 51st CES also assisted volunteers and taught the boy scouts a few lessons on what CE's mission is and how they accomplish it around the base.

The three organizations' main objective was to beautify the park and make it a safer place for the community. Members of the 51st CES got rid of safety hazards around the park by providing heavy equipment to take down dead trees that could topple over in the next big wind storm.

Parents were happy about the project for more than one reason.

"We enjoyed playing at this park even though it was not always in the best of shape," said April Honaker, spouse of an Osan Airman. "It is the kid's community and park, and I think it's great that our kids are playing a part in making it safer and making it look good."

In order to maintain the park's cleanliness, the groups plan on seasonal cleaning when the leaves fall and at the beginning of spring.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rhino Horn Trafficker Arrested and Detained

Irish National Arrested for Passing Fraudulent Documents in Connection with His Sale of Four Black Rhinoceros Horns for $50,000
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.  According to information made public by Europol, the Rathkeale Rovers have been involved in an epidemic of raids on museums in Europe in which rhinoceros horns have been stolen.

 Rhinoceros are an herbivore species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth. They have no known predators other than humans.  All species of rhinoceros are protected under United States and international law, and all black rhinoceros species are endangered.  Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by more than 175 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets. Nevertheless, the demand for rhinoceros horn and black market prices have skyrocketed in recent years due to the value that some cultures have placed on ornamental carvings, good luck charms or alleged medicinal purposes, leading to a decimation of the global rhinoceros population.  In China, there is a tradition dating back centuries of intricately carved rhinoceros horn cups.  Drinking from such a cup was believed to bring good health and such carvings are highly prized by collectors. As a result of this demand, rhino populations have declined by more than 90 percent since 1970.  South Africa, for example, has witnessed a rapid escalation in poaching of live animals, rising from 13 in 2007 to more than 618 in 2012.  

 The charge in the complaint is merely and allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Nestor of the Eastern District of New York and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Help for hatchlings on the beach

By Airman 1st Class Alex Echols, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affair

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Confused, disoriented and covered with sand, a sand-dollar sized sea turtle searches for the sea. Going the wrong way, a giant hand helps it find the hard, damp sand recently wet by waves. It tumbles many times as the tide comes in to greet it, but each time it finds it feet and charges forward determined to reach open water.

The 325th Civil Engineer Squadron Natural Resources specialists monitor and protect the sea turtles who come to Tyndall AFB's beaches to nest. They also compile data for Florida's monitoring system on these nests including where the nests are located, what species of turtles laid the nest and how many successfully hatched out of the nest. 

"The overall goal is to recover these species to the point that they are no longer on the endangered species list," said Wendy Jones, awildlife biologist with the 325th CES.

Every spring, there are four species of adult sea turtles that can be seen in the local waters: the loggerhead, which is the most common; the Kemp's ridley; the leatherback; and the green sea turtle. From May to August they lay their nests on Florida beaches. 

The female turtles come onto the shore at night to scout a good location for their nest. When she finds her ideal spot, she digs with her back flippers a hole at least two foot deep with the top of the egg clutch roughly 10 inches down from the surface of the sand. After filling the hole with eggs, she camouflages the nest by fluffing the sand above and around it to protect it from predators.

Each turtle lays multiple nests during a season, which hold from 50 to 130 eggs depending on the species and age of the turtle. 

"For a turtle to be successful, it really only needs one turtle to grow up and replace it," Jones said.

Depending on the weather, the eggs take an average of 60 days to incubate. A hotter, drier summer hatches the eggs much quicker than a rainier, cooler one.

From incubation to hatching to the crawl to the water, the baby turtles face many threats on their journey to the ocean. Factors such as storms and flooding can wash out the nests and once hatched, lighting attracts the turtles to populated areas like roads. These are big problems for the hatchlings, but their most prevalent threat is predation from birds, ghost crabs, coyotes, sharks and other animals that view baby turtles as food.

To deter beach predators, Natural Resources technicians place a wire screen over the nest with holes that are wide enough for the baby turtles to climb out but narrow enough to prevent the predators from digging the nest up.

Then, they cordon off the nest area to prevent people from disturbing it and to make the nests easier to find for monitoring purposes. At the height of the nesting season, the biologists and their volunteers survey the beach five days a week. 

So far this season, they have located 59 nests, which must be checked during each survey. The survey begins at day break and could last several hours depending on what they find. 

"Every day is different when you're out there," said Shannon Secco, the lead biological aide with the 325th CES. "You never know what to expect, but you know that when you're out there you try to do your best to help them, and that is a good feeling."

The surveyors comb the beach in search of new nests, identified by the crawl marks the mother leaves in the sand. They also check each identified nest for any sign of predation or if the eggs have hatched. 

"When we see the signs the nest has hatched, we wait three days and then we dig it up," Jones said. "The three days allows the turtles a chance to hatch naturally and come out on their own."

Delicacy is the key to the excavation of a nest because there could still be eggs inside that have yet to hatch or turtles who have not yet made it to the surface, said John Jennings, the 325th CES Natural Resources wildlife technician.

"The main thing to keep in mind when digging up a nest is to make sure not to dig into the turtle," Jennings said. "You want to dig out the sand out from around him and then get underneath him and pull him up. You have to try to get underneath him so you're not hurting a little turtle."

Once the surveyors have counted the egg shells, unhatched eggs and baby turtles, they collect the turtles. Finally, they bring the baby turtles to the edge of the shore line and release them one at a time. The turtles may struggle to get their sea legs, but once they navigate their first wave, they disappear into the Gulf. After that, it is up to them to make it to adulthood. 

"It really feels like you're helping the little turtles out," Jennings said. "That's what we're out here doing this for, to help the turtle population make a comeback."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Serving country, African wild animals part of routine for ANG Airman

By Staff Sgt. Traci Payne, 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs

 WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFNS) --For one Missouri National Guardsman, life as a Citizen-Airman is far from the wilds of her civilian career.

Airman Casey Self, a zookeeper at the Kansas City Zoo, joined the 131st Bomb Wing to expand her resume from taking care of animals on land and water to people in the sky as well.

“When I moved to the Kansas City area and learned more about Whiteman Air Force Base through friends stationed there, I realized that I had a great opportunity right in front of me,” Self said. “That's when I decided to enlist in the Air National Guard.  Serving my country and being a part of such a great team, I feel like I will help make a difference in people’s lives.”

Self, who enlisted as an aviation resource management technician with the 131st, has already demonstrated the potential for a long and successful career, said Tech Sgt. Jason Jones, her recruiter.

“Airman Self has shown herself to be an outstanding addition to the 131st through her strong work ethic and dedication,” Jones said.  “She has demonstrated leadership qualities that will be strengthened throughout her Air Force training and benefit the Missouri Air National Guard for years to come.”

A native of Illinois, Self said she knew from a young age she wanted to spend her life working with animals.

“It wasn't until I started to study applied animal behavior that I realized that I wanted to be an animal trainer,” Self said. “In the zoo world the zookeepers are the animal trainers so that's why I decided to pursue a career in zookeeping.”

She graduated from the University of Illinois in 2009 with a degree in animal science.  From there, Self began a series of internships and jobs that moved her around the country to gain experience.  Almost a year ago, she accepted a position at the Kansas City Zoo.

The new job came with a lot of responsibility.

“My responsibilities as a zookeeper encompass everything that has to do with the welfare of the animals in my section, which is the Ruwenzori area,” Self said. “We are responsible for the section of the African exhibits that house the chimpanzees, hippos, leopard tortoises, African wild dogs, baboons and slender snouted crocodiles.”

While Self’s dream was to work with animals, she had another goal: to serve her country.  Self said she has wanted to serve since she was a child, and participated in Junior ROTC during high school. She considered enlisting during her senior year, but ultimately decided to take another path.

The years spent working in her current civilian career field will make her a better, more responsible Airman, Self said.  Though her specific civilian job responsibilities may seem far out of the realm of military tasks, Self said the environment she works in has prepared her well for her duties as a Citizen Airman.

“My job in the Air National Guard will be aviation resources management where I will be supporting the pilots to fly the B-2s,” Self said. “We have a very labor-intensive, fast-paced, high-tempo job that is also very rewarding.”

Going from the zoo to Missouri Air National Guard blue, Self’s story is a testament to never giving up on a dream.  She is currently awaiting dates for basic training and technical school, and is excited for the challenges ahead of her.

“I’m thankful for the flexibility that being in the Air National Guard provides for reaching all of my career goals,” Self said.  “I feel like everything has fallen into place and this is where I have always wanted to be.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Fight to Put an End to Wildlife Trafficking

September 9th, 2013 
Courtesy of Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division

Today, I was honored to join officials from the Departments of State and the Interior and many others, including Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a White House event to announce the members of the new Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking.
The council will work closely with the President’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, established by the Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking that the President signed in July, in developing a national strategy on these issues. The council includes many accomplished professionals from government, non-government and private sector backgrounds.  Among them is former Justice Department Environmental Crimes Assistant Chief John Webb, who has given 25 years in service to nation protecting wildlife.  John continues to serve and support international efforts to protect wildlife through training and promoting the use of investigative techniques. 

President Obama signed Executive Order 13648 on Combating Wildlife Trafficking on July 1, 2013, establishing a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking.  The task force is co-chaired by the Secretaries of State and the Interior and the Attorney General, or their designees, and includes senior-level representatives from 14 additional federal departments and agencies.

Vigorous enforcement of the nation’s wildlife trafficking laws, through investigation and prosecution of those who violate those laws, is a central element of the nation’s efforts to combat wildlife trafficking.  It is equally important to help other countries affected by such crimes —  whether they be the source, a trafficking transit point, or a destination for illegally taken wildlife — build the capacity to stop this brutal trade.\

Working with the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service and others, the Department of Justice has successfully prosecuted numerous cases of illicit wildlife smuggling involving trafficking of rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory, South African leopard, Asian and African tortoises and reptiles, and many other forms of protected wildlife and protected plant species.

The illicit wildlife trade increasingly involves international organized crime and millions of dollars, and it is driving some protected species towards extinction in our own time.  The Department of Justice treats these crimes with the utmost seriousness.

We are looking forward to fulfilling our role on the task force and to working together with other agencies and the new advisory council to develop a national strategy to stop this illegal trade.  Today’s event brings together the coordinated efforts of the U.S. government with private and nonprofit partners to address a truly international crisis.