MANHATTAN (CN) – A Canadian antiques dealer was sentenced Wednesday to 30 months in prison for smuggling rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory and coral.
Authorities had used a sting operation in the Bronx last year to apprehend Xiao Ju “Tony” Guan after learning that his company, Bao Antiques, in Richmond, British Columbia, had purchased rhinoceros horns from auction houses in Ohio and Florida, according to a sentencing memorandum.
When Guan learned that there were two endangered black rhino horns for sale, he initiated contact with what turned out to be an undercover agent and offered $45,000 in a May 4, 2014, email for the goods.
Later that month, Guan and a woman acting as his interpreter flew to New York, cabbed it to a storage facility in the Bronx and took custody of the horns.
Guan then went to a UPS store and boxed the horns to have them shipped to an address in Point Roberts, Wash., that is less than a mile from the Canadian border, and less than 20 miles from his store.
He was arrested outside the store as Canadian authorities executed a search warrant at his antique business, eventually seizing various wildlife objects made from elephant ivory and coral that were smuggled out of the Unites States and into Canada.
Prosecutors included photographs of the objects as exhibits in the court file.
Canadian law enforcement also discovered illegal narcotics, including approximately 50,000 ecstasy pills, the Justice Department said.
U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain accepted Guan’s guilty plea in November and imposed the 30-month prison sentence at a Wednesday morning hearing.
Though it has no known predators other than humans, the herbivorous rhinoceros is endangered because of escalating demand for its horn.
“More than 3,000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa alone since 2008, a more than 7,000 percent increase compared to the previous 17 years,” according to the Justice Department’s sentencing memorandum. “Last year, 1,215 rhinoceros were poached illegally in South Africa, the most on record.”
The government calls its efforts to prosecute rhino horn smugglers Operation Crash, using the term for a herd of rhinoceros.
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