Washington, DC - Special Agents with the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch were pleased to aid the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in their successful international investigation of illegal trade of protected rhinoceros horns. The investigation was part of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide effort led by the USFWS and the US Department of Justice. Edward N. Levine, age 67, was recently sentenced to serve 27 months in prison after being convicted of charges resulting from this investigation.
Court documents show that Levine knowingly sold two black rhinoceros horns to an undercover investigator for $55,000. A jury convicted him of a substantive violation as well as conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, and conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act. Levine’s role in the conspiracy involved negotiating the sale and transporting the horns from California to Nevada.
The black rhinoceros, an herbivore species of prehistoric origin native to Africa, is one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth. They have no known predators other than humans. All species of rhinoceros are protected under US and international laws including the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act. Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by over 183 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife, and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets.
“Complex international investigations such as Operation Crash have demonstrated the link between wildlife trafficking and criminal organizations also involved in other serious transnational organized crimes including trafficking of illegal firearms and drugs,” said the USFWS Acting Chief of Law Enforcement. “Mr. Levine not only illegally bought and sold horns from critically endangered black rhinos; he was previously convicted and served time for his role in drug trafficking with South American drug cartel [sic].”
Levine was the only Operation Crash target to proceed to trial. Following his prison term, Levine will serve three years of supervised release and is prohibited from wildlife and antique sales. His co-defendant, Lumsden Quan, had previously pleaded guilty to the indictment and was sentenced in December 2015 to 367 days of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
Operation Crash, named after the term for a herd of rhinoceros, is an ongoing effort to detect, deter, and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinoceros and the unlawful trafficking of rhinoceros horns. As of October 2017, Operation Crash has resulted in the prosecution and sentencing of nearly 50 subjects and recovery of approximately $7.8 million through fines, forfeiture, and restitution.