Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Lacey Act Sentencing

Of all the things compliance people need to worry about, the Lacey Act is one of the craziest. Not that it is not an important and valuable law. As originally drafted, it was intended to prevent poaching of wild game and is used to enforce laws against trafficking in endangered species. But, the Lacey Act has been expanded to require that importers of plants and plant-based materials make a declaration of the botanical name of the species involved and that it was harvested and exported legally. This is very tough when the importer is several steps removed from the person who harvested the tree, for example. Consider a car company in Germany that uses lovely rosewood in its interior trim. The importer in the U.S. needs to know that the wood making up the trim was harvested legally. That is way outside the usual visibility of the supply chain.

That is just me grousing.

In a much more typical case, the Justice Department recently announced the conviction and sentencing of an antiques dealer who illegally importer sperm whale teeth and narwhal tusk. That is worth 33 months of prison time.

Since there is no copyright on government documents, I'll give you the highlights rather than a link.

WASHINGTON—David L. Place, owner of Manor House Antiques Cooperative in Nantucket, Mass., was sentenced to 33 months in prison for illegally importing and trafficking in Narwhal tusks and Sperm Whale teeth, the Department of Justice and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) announced today.
On Nov. 19, 2010, a federal jury in Boston convicted Place of eight counts including conspiracy, Lacey Act violations and smuggling for buying and illegally importing Sperm Whale teeth and Narwhal tusks into the United States, as well as selling the teeth and tusks after their illegal importation. The market value of the teeth and tusks illegally imported and sold by Place was determined to be between $200,000 and $400,000. One of Place’s co-conspirators, Andrei Mikhalyov of Odessa, Ukraine, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston on related charges. Mikhalyov served a nine month prison sentence and was deported to the Ukraine.
Sperm Whales are listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Narwhals are listed as “threatened” under the ESA, and are listed on Appendix II of CITES. It is illegal to import parts of either the Sperm Whale or the Narwhal into the United States without the requisite permits/certifications, and without declaring the merchandise at the time of importation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The unlawful importation of endangered species is a serious crime that the Justice Department is committed to stopping,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “We will not tolerate the illegal market in endangered species such as the Narwhal and the Sperm Whale, and we will continue to prosecute those who violate the law.”

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