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Thursday, May 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Six Months for Foray Into Illegal Rhino Horn Trade

MANHATTAN (CN) - A New York antiques dealer will serve six months for trading in black market rhinoceros horn while purporting to help wildlife authorities end the practice.

David Hausman furthered the illegal rhinoceros trade during a two-year stint in which he was purportedly helping U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service investigate the practice.

In December 2010, he advises agents that the taxidermied head of a black rhinoceros containing two horns had been illegally sold by a Pennsylvania auction house.

Upon learning that the sale was not finalized, however, Hausman used a straw buyer to covertly purchase the rhinoceros mount himself.

Hausman instructed the straw buyer to go radio silent, ensure there was no paper trail, remove the horns and mail them to him, the Justice Department announced.

To deceive law enforcement, Hausman then fabricated a set of horns and had the straw buyer attach those synthetic materials on the rhinoceros head.

Authorities found that Hausman had also responded in September 2011 to an Internet offer to sell a different taxidermied head of a black rhinoceros containing two horns.

This online seller was actually an undercover federal agent, but the unsuspecting Hausman thought he could conceal his purchase by paying in cash and avoiding a paper trail.

Since there is an antique exception for certain trade in rhinoceros horns that are over 100 years old, Hausman had directed the undercover seller to send him an email falsely stating that the mounted rhinoceros, which was supposed to be 20 to 30 years old, met such criteria.

After buying the black rhinoceros mount at a truck stop in Princeton, Ill., agents followed Hausman and observed him sawing off the horns in a motel parking lot.

When federal agents arrested Hausman in February 2012, he contacted the straw buyer from the 2010 purchase and discussed burning or hiding the rhinoceros mount.

Agents seized four rhinoceros heads from Hausman's apartment as well as six black rhinoceros horns - two of which were the horns he was seen sawing off in the parking lot. They also found numerous carved and partially carved rhinoceros horns, fake rhinoceros horns and $28,000 in cash at the time of the arrest.

The Justice Department said Hausman's arrest is part of Operation Crash, a nationwide, multiagency crackdown into illegal rhinoceros trade. The operation takes its name from the term crash given for a herd of rhinoceros.

In July 2012, Hausman pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and creating false records in connection with illegal rhinoceros horn trafficking.

Hausman admitted that he furthered the illegal trade of rhinoceros horn while purporting to help a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service investigation of it.

"He posed as someone who was protecting this endangered species when he was really obtaining and using inside information to further the illegal trade in black rhino horns," Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno said in a statement.

In addition to the jail term on Thursday, a federal judge sentenced the 67-year-old Hausman to pay a $10,000 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Fund and $18,000 to the Rhino Tiger Conservation Fund.

Hausman must also serve one year of supervised release after his release from jail, and he has to pay a $200 special assessment fee.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe discussed how poachers are killing off rhino populations across the globe "to meet rising demand for rhino horn for ceremonial purposes and as a traditional 'medicine,' despite the fact that it has no demonstrable medicinal benefits."

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.

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