Rhinoceros Trafficker Busted!

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An Irish national who was extradited to the United States pleaded guilty and was sentenced for his role in trafficking a libation cup made from the horn of a protected rhinoceros.

After entering his guilty plea today in Miami, U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Sheridan to a term of 14 months in prison and two years of supervised release.

On Aug. 29, 2019, Richard Sheridan, 50, an Irish national from Cottenham, Cambridge, United Kingdom, was arraigned in federal court in Miami, Florida, on a May 15, 2014, indictment that charged Sheridan and Michael Hegarty, also an Irish national, with conspiracy to traffic in a libation cup made from the horn of protected rhinoceros.  In addition to the conspiracy, the indictment charged Sheridan with smuggling a libation cup made from the horn of protected rhinoceros out of the United States.  According to the indictment and a Joint Factual Statement signed by the parties, in 2012, Sheridan and Hegarty purchased a rhinoceros horn libation cup from an auction house in Rockingham, North Carolina, and then smuggled the cup out of the United States.

“For our critically endangered wildlife, every case that serves to deter their illegal poaching and trafficking in their artifacts is important to the global effort to preserve these iconic specimens for our children and the generations to come,” said U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan of the Southern District of Florida. “Only through the continued, collective efforts of the international community will the goal of preserving species under threat of extinction be realized.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida commends the agencies and investigators on both sides of the Atlantic who worked together to make this result a reality.”

“Sheridan conspired to profit from the demise of one of the world’s most endangered species,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “We will continue to work with our international partners to fight the trade in protected and endangered species, and organized criminal enterprises associated with it.”

“Combating transnational organized crime that involves the trafficking of some of the worlds’ most endangered species continues to be of the highest priority,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.  “This investigation is one more example of the accomplishments that can be achieved when investigators around the globe share information and collectively pursue those who attempt to profit from the illegal trade of wildlife.  It was that type of cooperation between Service special agents and London Metropolitan Police that resulted in today’s sentencing. ”

Following his extradition to the United States from Belgium, Hegarty pleaded guilty to conspiring with Sheridan to traffic in the libation cup.  In November 2017, Hegarty was sentenced in federal court in Miami to 18 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement investigated the case.  Southern District of Florida Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Watts-FitzGerald and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section are prosecuting the case with assistance from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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