Elephant's Foot, Sea Turtle Boots, Leopard Pelt Found For Sale Online: Feds Make Busts
The U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. today announced they've filed charges against a dozen people for selling endangered animals and related clothing, including boots made out of sea turtle skin, an elephant's foot, and pelts from a tiger, a polar bear, a leopard and a bear, via online at sites such as Craigslist and eBay.
Finding this stuff didn't seem hard at all. Erin Dean of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Torrance:
We made our first undercover purchase within 24 hours of beginning the operation.
The suspects were charged with the likes of violating the federal Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Lacey Act and state wildlife laws, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The investigation began in July in Southern California and Southern Nevada.
A Las Vegas man who allegedly sold agents boots made out of sea turtles was just arrested this morning, according to the feds. Here's their rundown of the defendants and their allegations against them:
George Lovell, 49, of Las Vegas, who allegedly sold a pair of Loggerhead sea turtle leather boots for $1,000 after offering them for sale on Craigslist. Lovell was arrested this morning and is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in federal court in Las Vegas.
Lisa Naumu, 49, of San Diego, who allegedly sold an $8,000 leopard skin coat after placing an ad on Craigslist that offered three of such coats for sale.
Victor Northrop, 48, of Henderson, Nevada, who allegedly accepted $10,000 for a rug made out of an endangered tiger after offering the item for sale on Craigslist for $12,500.
Karla Trejo, 42, of Sherman Oaks, who is charged with selling a live Western Scrub-Jay for $185 after posting an ad on Craigslist.
Dan Tram "Majkah" Huynh, 30, of San Diego, who allegedly sold an Asian arowana to an undercover agent for $2,500 after offering the fish for sale on Craigslist.
Henry Dao, 41, of Garden Grove, who allegedly sold two live Red-whiskered Bulbul birds for $1,750 after offering the injurious species for sale on a website used to trade and sell "softbills."
Alex Madar, 27, of San Diego, who allegedly sold sea turtle leather shoes for $250 after posting the items for sale on Craigslist.
Kamipeli Piuleini, 35, of Torrance, who allegedly sold a Hawksbill sea turtle shell that had been listed on eBay.
Tyler Homesley, 24, of Ramona, who allegedly offered to sell three birds - including two protected migratory birds, a Eurasian kestrel and a Black-shouldered Kite - for $150 after placing an online advertisement (plus a $25 delivery fee for total price of $175).
The charges involved are only misdemeanors, but they could bring as much as one year behind bars if defendants are convicted. These three were charged by the L.A. County D.A. with misdemeanors:
Alfredo Vazquez, 50, of Montebello, who allegedly sold to undercover operatives an elephant's foot, a mounted hawk and a mounted owl.
James I. Colburn, 66, of Leona Valley, who allegedly sold a bear skin rug.
Blake William Diekman, 27, of South Pasadena, who allegedly sold a live piranha.
André Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attorney in L.A., called the sales an "alarming trend" and said:
The sale of endangered animals on the Internet has reached an alarming level, with as much as two-thirds of such sales taking place in the United States. These Internet sales of wildlife fuel poaching and make the killing of protected animals more profitable.