NEW YORK (AP) — A Canadian antiques dealer caught in a U.S. crackdown on illegal trafficking in rhinoceros horns was sentenced to two and a half years in prison Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain announced Xiao Ju Guan's sentence in Manhattan federal court, where she said Guan had "helped to feed a hot market for these goods."
The 39-year-old antiques dealer, also known as Tony Guan, pleaded guilty last year to attempted smuggling after he was caught in a probe dubbed "Operation Crash." He admitted he tried to bring two black rhinoceros horns from New York to British Columbia, where he owns an antiques business in Richmond.
Guan said he knew he was violating the law when he sought to smuggle more than $400,000 of rhino horns and sculptures made from elephant ivory and coral, falsely labeling them as "handicrafts." The illegal trade has contributed to critical declines in elephant and rhino populations.
He was arrested in March 2014 after he flew from Vancouver, Canada, to New York City and bought two endangered black rhinoceros horns from undercover special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a storage facility in the Bronx, the government said.
Prosecutors said he was driven by the undercover agents to a nearby express mail store where he mailed the horns to an address in Point Roberts, Washington, less than a mile from the Canadian border and 17 miles from his business, Bao Antiques.
The government said a search of Guan's business turned up nine wildlife objects identified as items bought in the United States through a New York City-based Internet auction business. Prosecutors said Canadian law enforcement also recovered illegal narcotics, including about 50,000 ecstasy pills, during the search.