NEW YORK — An antiques dealer from British Columbia who pleaded guilty to smuggling rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory and coral has been sentenced to two and a half years in a U.S. prison.
Xiao Ju Guan, also known as Tony Guan, of Richmond, B.C., was sentenced in New York Wednesday and also ordered to forfeit wildlife items seized during a search of his business.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York said in a news release that trafficking rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory threatens the endangered and vulnerable species.
“Without strict enforcement of international agreements and U.S. laws, these extraordinary animals may disappear from the face of the earth,” said Bharara. “Tony Guan has learned the price of putting profit over the prolonged existence of rhinos and elephants.”
Guan was arrested in New York in March 2014 by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents.
The United States Department of Justice said the 39-year-old bought two black rhino horns from undercover officers and then shipped them to Point Roberts, Wash., which is a short drive from Richmond.
Guan falsely labelled the box as containing “handicrafts” and indicated he had people who could drive the horns across the border, as he had done many times before, said the department.
While Guan was being arrested, Canadian police searched his store and found ivory, coral and other wildlife items purchased in the U.S., as well as narcotics including about 50,000 ecstasy pills, said the department.
Guan was arrested as part of “Operation Crash,” a crackdown on the international trade in the horns of black rhinos, which are listed as endangered. A crash is the word for a herd of rhinoceros.
Environment Canada chief enforcement officer Gord Owen said the case is an example of collaboration between federal agencies in both countries.
Trade in rhinoceros horns has been regulated under international treaty since 1976, and the U.S. justice department said the animals are also protected under domestic law.