US cracks rhino horn ring, 7 arrested

2012-02-24 15:48

Los Angeles - Seven people have been arrested on charges of trafficking in endangered rhinoceros horns in Los Angeles, New Jersey and New York over the past week, federal officials said.

Four of the defendants were arrested in Los Angeles. The most recent arrest occurred on Wednesday night at Los Angeles International Airport, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the US attorney's office.

Jin Zhao Feng, a Chinese national, was taken into custody at the airport. Authorities suspect him of overseeing the shipment of dozens of rhino horns from the US to China.

Special agents of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations made the arrests and served search warrants in as many as five states, according to a statement from the US Justice and Interior departments.

The arrests were the result of an 18-month investigation that was called "Operation Crash" - the term for a herd of rhinoceroses - and scrutinised an international smuggling ring that trafficked in sawed-off rhinoceros horns. The horns are used by some cultures for ornamental carvings, good luck charms or believed medicinal purposes, including cancer.

Suppliers

Three of the alleged traffickers caught in Southern California were Jimmy Kha, 49, his girlfriend Mai Nguyen, 41, and Kha's 26-year-old son Felix. Each faces four counts of rhino horn trafficking in violation of federal laws protecting rare and endangered species.

One of the alleged suppliers, Wade Steffen, was arrested in Hico, Texas, and charged in Los Angeles, federal prosecutors said.

The Khas began receiving packages from Steffen and another alleged supplier in 2010. Seventeen packages were opened under federal search warrants and 37 rhino horns were found, according to a criminal complaint filed in US District Court in Los Angeles.

A search of Steffen's luggage at the Long Beach Airport on February 9 turned up $337 000 in cash. Additional searches by federal agents found rhino horns, cash, bars of gold, diamonds and Rolex watches. Approximately $1m in cash was seized and another $1m seized in gold nuggets, federal officials said.

"The rhino is an animal of prehistoric origin that is facing possible extinction because of an illegal trade for its horns on the black market that is driven by greed," said Ignacia S Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

In New Jersey, Amir Even-Ezra was arrested on February 18 on a felony trafficking charge after purchasing rhino horns from a New York resident in New Jersey.

False documents

Antiques expert David Hausman was charged in US District Court in Manhattan with illegally trafficking rhinoceros horns and with creating false documents to conceal the illegal nature of the transaction, prosecutors said.

All species of rhinoceros are protected under US and international law and all black rhinoceros species are endangered, federal officials said.

Rhino horns are composed of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails. Rhinoceros horn is a highly valued and sought-after commodity despite the fact that international trade has been largely banned since 1976.

- SAPA

Read more on:    animals  |  rhino poaching  |  poaching
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
16 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Sir Lowry's Pass - 17:57 PM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Wednesday Cape Town - 17:56 PM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Riebeeck Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia N9

The Nokia N9 has a beautiful one-piece, unibody design where...

From R2899.85

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself fascinated by something which could draw you in to obsessively exploring this subject in depth....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.