Tampa, Florida - An indictment was unsealed Wednesday from a federal grand jury sitting in Tampa, Florida, which charges Novita Indah, 48, and Larry Malugin, 51, of Port Richey, Florida, with conspiracy and trafficking in protected wildlife. The indictment charges the couple with smuggling wildlife from Indonesia to the United States and reselling the wildlife from their Florida home.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) seized approximately 369 wildlife articles from their home during the execution of search warrant on Jan. 12, 2017. The agents recovered assorted Javan spitting cobra, reticulated python, and monitor lizard mounts, belts, and wallets, as well as a babirusa skull. A babirusa is a rare Indonesian pig prized for its distinctive curving tusks.
The indictment alleges that beginning in 2011, Indah and Malugin sold wildlife on eBay from their Indonesian home to buyers across the world. They would smuggle the items to purchasers in the United States in packages falsely labeled to conceal their contents. Indah and Malugin continued to sell wildlife after they moved to Puerto Rico and ultimately Florida in 2013. All of the wildlife was protected by an international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The United States, Indonesia, and approximately 181 other countries are signatories to CITES, which provides a mechanism for regulating international trade in species whose continued survival is threatened by trade. In addition to the seized wildlife, Indah and Malugin also trafficked in taxidermy mounts and bones of leopard cats, owls, and Southeast Asian primates, including slow loris, macaques, lutungs, and langurs.
“The CITES agreement was created to prevent the international trade of protected wildlife, and the Department of Justice will seek to prosecute individuals who flout this treaty and other important environmental laws,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Department commends the actions taken by USFWS and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement is committed to combating wildlife trafficking and protecting imperiled species at home and abroad,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. “The increased use of the internet has opened a growing pathway for the illegal wildlife trade and wildlife traffickers go to great lengths to smuggle reptiles, birds, primates, and other species in and out of the U.S. The Service would like to thank the U.S. Department of Justice for their assistance with this case. Together, we can combat wildlife trafficking and protect species across the world.”
From 2011 to 2017, Indah and Malugin made approximately 4,596 online sales of CITES-protected wildlife worth about $211,212. USFWS and Customs inspectors repeatedly seized packages shipped by Indah and Malugin, but they continued to sell wildlife using various eBay and PayPal accounts. This investigation was part of Operation Global Reach, a USFWS long-term taskforce into the flow of illegal wildlife from Indonesia to the United States.
If convicted, Indah and Malugin face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ incarceration on the smuggling charges and five years for the Lacey Act violations. The indictment also seeks to forfeit the wildlife seized from their residence.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The USFWS Office of Law Enforcement in Redmond, Washington, led the investigation, with assistance from agents in Tampa. The government is represented by Trial Attorneys Ryan Connors and Matthew Evans of the Environmental Crimes Section.