NEW YORK – Qiang Wang, a k a Jeffrey Wang, a New York antiques dealer, was sentenced in federal court in Manhattan yesterday to 37 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to smuggle Asian artifacts made from rhinoceros horns and ivory and violate wildlife trafficking laws, announced Robert G. Dreher, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wang was arrested in February 2013 as part of “Operation Crash,” a nation-wide crackdown in the illegal trafficking in rhinoceros horns, for his role in smuggling “libation cups” carved from rhinoceros horns from New York to China. Wang was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York.
“Smuggling wildlife artifacts made from rhino horn and elephant ivory undermines the international conservation protections put in place to save these species from extinction ,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Dreher. “This is an active and ongoing investigation that is designed to send a clear message to buyers and sellers that we will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who are involved in this devastating trade.”
“With his sentence today, Qiang Wang is held accountable for his role in feeding the flourishing black market for artifacts made from endangered species,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “This Office will continue its work to prosecute those who contribute to the illegal wildlife trade, and to uphold the rules designed to protect wildlife.”
“ We’re reaching a tipping point, where the unprecedented slaughter of rhinos and elephants happening now threatens the viability of these iconic species’ wild populations in Africa,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “.This slaughter is fueled by illegal trade, including that exposed by Operation Crash. We will continue to work relentlessly across the United States government and with our international partners to crack down on poaching and wildlife trafficking.”
According to the information, plea agreement and statements made during court proceedings:
In China, there is a tradition dating back centuries of intricately carving rhinoceros horn cups. Drinking from such a cup was believed by some to bring good health, and antique carvings are highly prized by collectors. Libation cups and other ornamental carvings are particularly sought after in China and in other Asian countries, as well as in the United States. The escalating value of such items has resulted in an increased demand for rhinoceros horn that has helped fuel a thriving black market, including fake antiques made from more recently hunted rhinoceros.
In pleading guilty, Wang admitted to participating in a conspiracy to smuggle objects carved from rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory out of the United States knowing that it was illegal to export such items without required permits. Due to their dwindling populations, all rhinoceros and elephant species are protected under international trade agreements. Wang falsely labeled the packages in order to conceal the true contents and did not declare them as required. Special Agents with the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service executed a search of Wang’s apartment in Flushing, New York, and found documents showing Wang was involved in buying rhino horn and ivory artifacts and smuggling them to China. Agents seized two ivory carvings, including one found hidden behind Wang’s bed that were forfeited as part of the sentence. Numerous photographs of raw and carved rhinoceros horn, including approximately 10 different raw rhinoceros horns, were found on Wang’s computer and telephone consistent with a common practice of emailing or texting photographs of items for sale in order to receive instructions on whether to purchase the items and how much to pay. According to prosecutors, Wang had told other dealers that he was seeking raw rhino horns to send to China.
In sentencing Wang , Judge Forrest said that his behavior helped “create and sustain a marketplace for goods made from endangered wildlife.” Judge Forrest also said that Wang’s conduct was “illegal and extremely troubling.”
In addition to the prison term, Judge Forrest ordered Wang, 34, of Flushing, N.Y., to forfeit certain ivory goods in his possession, and banned him from all future trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn. Wang was also sentenced to serve a term of three years of supervised release.
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. 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.
Operation Crash is a continuing investigation being conducted by the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), 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 by was handled by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office Complex Frauds Unit and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, with assistance from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation . Assistant U.S. Attorney Janis M. Echenberg and Senior Counsel Richard A. Udell of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section are in charge of the prosecution.
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