Message #209

Date:	Wed, 01 Jul 1998 21:52:00
Subject: Human Remains/Protected Wildlife Dealer Sentenced

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

From: Teresa Paglione  paglione@al.nrcs.usda.gov

ya'll may have already seen this, but if not, here... 

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 17:28:12 -0500
From:  mitch_snow@mail.fws.gov
To: fws-news@www.fws.gov
Seller of Native American Human Remains,
Protected Wildlife

For immediate release June 26, 1998

For further information, contact
Ed Grace 516/825-3950 x232
Diana Weaver 413/253-8329
Terri Edwards 413-253-8327

Seller of Native American Human Remains, Protected
Wildlife, Nets Jail Sentence, Fine

The owner of a wildlife specialty store in New York
City yesterday received the maximum 12-month sentence
allowed under the 1990 Native American Grave Protection
and Repatriation Act in what is believed to be the
first jail time penalty imposed under the Act. William
Stevens, age 49, will serve concurrent sentences for
violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the
Endangered Species Act and the Convention in the
International Trade of Endangered Species, according
to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Edward
Grace of Valley Stream, N.Y. U.S. Federal Court Judge
David Trager sentenced Stevens to a total of 16 months
in federal prison, a fine of $20,000 and nearly $9,000
in restitution for trafficking in Native American human
remains and endangered wildlife. "We hope this sentence
sends a message that illegal traffic in Native American
remains and in endangered wildlife will not be
tolerated," Grace said. Stevens, owner of Evolution
Natural History in SOHO, pleaded guilty in March, Grace
said, to conspiring to sell skulls, skull fragments and
bones from Native Americans. Grace said searches of
Stevens' store and interviews revealed that he planned
to sell or had already sold the remains of at least 20
Native Americans, the largest number of remains
involved in such illegal activity. Individual skulls
and bone fragments were priced from $200 to $1,400
each. This is only the third successful prosecution
for trafficking in Native American remains in the
country, and the first by the Service. Stevens also
smuggled endangered gorilla and babirusa (wild boar)
skulls into the United States, and he conspired to
sell protected bald eagle skulls and parts. Wildlife
law enforcement officers seized wildlife items
protected by the federal government and the State of
New York valued at more than $74,000. "The confiscated
items include a tiger rug, gorilla feet ashtrays, a
chimpanzee skeleton, an elephant foot stool, a gibbon
arm, a stuffed pangolin (anteater) and wood turtle
shells," according to Grace. "All of these species are
struggling to survive, and the sale of products made
from them only encourages illegal killing." "Illegal
wildlife trafficking is one of the major causes of
worldwide wildlife loss.  In monetary gain, the $2
billion to $3.5 billion a year industry exceeds illegal
arms dealing and is surpassed only by drug smuggling,"
Grace said. Law enforcement officers also recovered
four Native American skulls, several skull fragments,
two bald eagle skulls, a chimpanzee skull, a mountain
lion skull, and a gibbon carcass at a Long Island
residence of an individual supplying items to Stevens.
Grace explained that the human skulls were taken from
Native American burial sites in Florida and Missouri
from the Peoria and Seminole tribes. The eight-month
investigation began in April 1997 after Service
wildlife agents and U.S. Customs inspectors at New
York's John F. Kennedy International Airport
discovered stuffed Indian cobras in a box addressed
by Stevens and mailed from Thailand. The package
lacked the required permits. According to Grace, an
undercover visit to Stevens' store revealed other
violations. In July last year, wildlife agents
intercepted a second package at JFK Airport
containing skulls of endangered animals. Stevens had
mailed the box, labeled as clothing, from France to one
of his employees, Grace said. A third shipment
addressed to the store was inspected by wildlife
agents last September at JFK Airport. It contained 100
golden birdwing butterflies, which requires a permit.
They were falsely labeled as a non-protected species
before the shipment was exported from Thailand. The
investigation was conducted by the Service and the New
York Department of Environmental Conservation with
assistance from the U.S. Customs Service and the
National Park Service. The case was successfully
prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ilene Jaroslaw of
the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of
New York and the New York State Attorney General's Office.

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