(CN) - An Irish national was extradited to the United States and appeared in court this week on charges of rhinoceros horn trafficking, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
Patrick Sheridan was arrested in the United Kingdom in January after a request by the United States. The federal government sought Sheridan's extradition over his alleged role in trafficking black rhinoceros horns, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice.
A Waco, Texas, federal grand jury indicted Sheridan and a co-defendant last year on charges they conspired to buy and sell the rhinoceros horns and on violations of the Lacey Act. Sheridan, the co-defendant and Michael Slattery Jr. bought the horns from a Texas taxidermist and then sold them in New York, according to the indictment.
Slattery pleaded guilty in 2013 to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. He was described by the Justice Department as a member of The Rathkeale Rovers.
Also known as Irish Travelers, Europol says this nomadic, tight-knit extended family group has been involved in an epidemic of raids on museums in Europe involving the theft of rhinoceros horns. The group allegedly leverages the rising price for rhinoceros horns on the black market to be used for traditional medicines and carving.
Slattery admitted that he traveled within the United States between May 2010 and April 2011 to purchase rhinoceros horns, and then resold them to private individuals or consigned them to auction houses in the United States.
Sheridan and his unnamed co-defendant are also charged with making a fraudulent bill of sale in an attempt to make their purchase of the rhinoceros horns appear legal. Sheridan appeared in Federal Court on Monday and his arraignment and detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday, the government said.
If convicted, Sheridan and the co-defendant face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
"Rhino horn trafficking is having a devastating effect on the rhino and the allegations facing this individual are just the type of illegal behavior that is fueling an international market for horns. We must stop it in its tracks," John Cruden, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement Tuesday.
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