US Sentences Two Rhino Horn Smugglers to Prison


A short stint in jail for two rhino horn smugglers.

Two Irish citizens have been sentenced to prison by a US federal court after pleading guilty to rhino horn smuggling charges. The pair, Richard O’Brien and Michael Hegarty, were busted in November 2010 when they paid undercover agents USD $17,000 for four rhino horns in Denver, Colorado.

According to the Denver Post, O’Brien and Hegarty will spend six months in prison for their involvement with the illegal rhino horn trade.

US ‘Patriot Act’ enforced

Last month, it was reported that Chief U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel rejected the suspects’ arguments that they had not tried to smuggle anything and that their due process rights were violated.

The suspects were indicted by a grand jury on money laundering and smuggling charges.

The government is prosecuting the case under a law created as part of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. The law says anybody who attempts to export something contrary to U.S. law is guilty of smuggling.

There is no word yet on whether a third suspect, known as John Sullivan, has been apprehended.

Laundering rhino horn

In a troubling testament to the enormity and pervasiveness of the illegal rhino horn trade, would-be rhino horn buyers are attempting to obtain rhino horn legally from taxidermists and antiques auctions.

Dealers of illegal rhino horn make their profits by selling “legally” acquired products for processing into traditional medicines. This activity prompted UK authorities to tighten regulations governing trade in antique rhino horn.

Rhino horn is in high demand for use in traditional medicines in China and Vietnam, despite the fact that rhino horn has been extensively analyzed and actually contains no medicinal properties.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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