Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cattaraugus County man pleads guilty to illegally buying & selling elephant tusks

BUFFALO, N.Y. — U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr., announced today that Ferdinand E. Krizan, 77, of Franklinville, NY, pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. to trafficking in prohibited wildlife. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
“Since the passage of the Lacey Act in 1900, Congress and the American people have sought to protect endangered wildlife by outlawing the trafficking in certain vulnerable creatures, said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “Certainly the existential dangers facing elephants – the world’s largest land animal – are well known due to the continuing predations of poachers. But even beyond reasons of conservation, enforcement of wildlife trafficking laws attacks organized criminal groups who most frequently engage in this illegal trade. This Office will continue to vigorously enforce these important laws, both to protect our world’s wildlife for future generations, and to serve as an example for other nations considering similar efforts.”        
“Elephants are being slaughtered daily by poachers for their ivory. Each tusk represents one step closer to their extinction, said Edward Grace, Deputy Chief, Office of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Our special agents and wildlife inspectors are not only working tirelessly to investigate, apprehend, and prosecute the illegal ivory trade in the United States, but we are also working with global counterparts to track criminals abroad. Ivory poachers and traffickers will understand that the U.S. is committed to stopping this heinous activity and we will find you. If the demand for ivory is not reduced, and the illegal activities continue, then these magnificent animals won’t be on our planet for future generations to enjoy.”
“When Governor Cuomo signed a new state law in 2014 to prevent the trade of illegal ivory, the goal was to eliminate this illegal and immoral activity in New York and safeguard imperiled species of animals around the globe,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Today’s announcement builds on that promise and serves as a declaration to the public that we will not take this lightly. I applaud the efforts of DEC’s Environmental Conservation Officers and all the agencies involved that brought the perpetrators to justice.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, who is handling the case, stated that on November 6, 2013, Krizan, owner of Fred’s Antiques in Franklinville, purchased two elephant tusks from an auction house in Montreal, Quebec for $4,320 Canadian dollars. The defendant then had the tusks shipped to an address in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
On November 28, 2013, Krizan transported the tusks from Niagara Falls, Ontario into the United States through the Rainbow Bridge port of entry, violating the Endangered Species Act.  Subsequently, on May 31, 2014, the defendant sold the tusks, along with four additional tusks to a buyer in Massachusetts for $50,000 American dollars. At the time of that sale, Krizan knew that the two elephant tusks had been improperly transported into the United States. At no time did the defendant apply for or receive a permit under the Endangered Species Act authorizing the importation, delivery, receipt, transportation, or sale of elephant ivory.
The investigation also determined that the defendant also illegally trafficked in other protected wildlife including:
  • a Narwhal tusk, which he sold for $8,000 American dollars in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act;
  • two elephant tusks, which he sold for $66,000 American dollars;
  • a carved elephant ivory art object, which he purchased for $1,020 Canadian dollars;
  • one elephant tusk, which he purchased for $3,130.68 Canadian dollars;
  • one hippo ivory carving, which he sold for $1,400 American dollars;
  • one elephant ivory musician carving, which he sold for $2,525 American dollars;
  • one bronze and elephant ivory sosoon figurine, which he sold for $3,700 American dollars;
  • one elephant ivory trip-tix, which he sold for $2,700 Canadian dollars; and
  • one carved coral figurine, which he sold for $3,400 American dollars.
The total value of the wildlife trafficked by the defendant is $141,877.00. As part of the plea, the defendant will also abandon approximately 100 pieces elephant ivory carvings. 
The plea is the culmination of an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the direction of Honora Gordon, Special Agent in Charge, Northeast Region, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, under the direction of Captain Frank Lauricella.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 19, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. before Judge Geraci.