NYC antiques dealer enters guilty plea in rhino horn case

Federal agents who arrested antiques dealer David Hausman found a number of illegal items at his New York apartment. Agents seized four Black Rhinoceros mounts, three of which did not have horns, and one that had fake resin horns attached. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York.

Federal agents who arrested antiques dealer David Hausman found a number of illegal items at his New York apartment. Agents seized four Black Rhinoceros mounts, three of which did not have horns, and one that had fake resin horns attached. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York.

NEW YORK (AP) – A New York City antiques dealer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges he double-crossed wildlife protection authorities by first offering to help fight illegal sales of rhinoceros horns, then buying some himself.

David Hausman admitted in federal court in Manhattan that he knew at the time he was breaking laws intended to protect endangered black rhinos.

“I failed society, my family, my friends … and the conservation and animal rights community,” David Hausman told the judge. “I blame no one but myself.”

The case stems from an ongoing crackdown on a black market in rhino horns led by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Persistent demand for rhino horn carvings — considered good luck charms or health enhancers in some cultures – has devastated the world’s rhino population, authorities say.

Hausman “pretended he was helping law enforcement protect a species from being wiped out, but instead was contributing to the very problem,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement on Tuesday.

The 67-year-old Hausman, while purporting to be a legitimate tipster, alerted authorities in 2010 to an illegal rhino horn sale at a Pennsylvania auction house, court papers said.

When the sale fell through, he recruited a straw buyer in early 2011 to secretly purchase the horns himself, the papers said. He then sought to cover his tracks by making fake horns to replace real ones removed from a mounted rhino head, the papers added.

Other charges stemmed from a sting last year in which an undercover agent offered to sell Hausman another mounted rhino head. The defendant admitted buying the horns even though the undercover told him the head was only 20 to 30 years old, and knowing that it needed to be over 100 years old to be legal.

After the transaction was completed at a truck stop in Princeton, Ill., agents following Hausman to a motel parking lot where he was seen sawing horns off the rhino head.

Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, Ignacia S. Moreno said: “Trafficking in endangered species like the Black Rhinoceros is an egregious violation of the laws enacted by Congress to protect endangered species from extinction. Mr. Hausman misled officers in a federal government investigation, falsified records and concealed his own purchase, sale and profit from illegal trade in Black Rhinoceros horns. This prosecution should send a strong message that we will vigorously prosecute those who deliberately violate wildlife protection laws.”

As part of a plea agreement, Hausman agreed to give up several horns and carvings found in his apartment during a search in February.

He faces up to two years in prison at sentencing on Dec. 5.

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Auction Central News contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


Federal agents who arrested antiques dealer David Hausman found a number of illegal items at his New York apartment. Agents seized four Black Rhinoceros mounts, three of which did not have horns, and one that had fake resin horns attached. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York.

Federal agents who arrested antiques dealer David Hausman found a number of illegal items at his New York apartment. Agents seized four Black Rhinoceros mounts, three of which did not have horns, and one that had fake resin horns attached. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York.

Rhino head whose horn had been removed, seized from the apartment of antiques dealer David Hausman. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York.

Rhino head whose horn had been removed, seized from the apartment of antiques dealer David Hausman. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York.

Federal agents seized three sets of Black Rhinoceros horns (6 in total) found at David Hausman's apartment, as well as several items carved from rhino horn. Some of the items  appeared to be in the process of being carved; tools were present that would be used in such carvings. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York.

Federal agents seized three sets of Black Rhinoceros horns (6 in total) found at David Hausman’s apartment, as well as several items carved from rhino horn. Some of the items appeared to be in the process of being carved; tools were present that would be used in such carvings. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York.

Fake rhino horns seized from the apartment of antiques dealer David Hausman. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York.

Fake rhino horns seized from the apartment of antiques dealer David Hausman. Photo courtesy of United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York.