- Issue: Spring 2014
As evidence grew that the rhinos of the world were under renewed assault for their horns, special agents of the US Fish and Wildlife law enforcement division noted a corresponding spike in horn smuggling in the United States. Recruiting some 150 law enforcement officers to the case, they began an undercover investigation—called Operation Crash—to infiltrate and crack the crime ring. In February 2012, they swooped in for the first of an ongoing series of takedowns that has since netted 15 arrests and seven convictions in 13 states, along with millions of dollars’ worth of illegal horns, cash, cars and jewels. The busts have highlighted both the global allure of wildlife crime and the role of the US as an international transit hub.
LONG BEACH, CA
Luggage searched at the Long Beach Airport leads to the arrest of a Texas man and the discovery of $337,000 in cash—payment for horns to be shipped overseas.
LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, CA
Federal authorities arrest a Chinese national who allegedly oversaw the shipment of dozens of rhino horns from the United States to China.
LOS ANGELES, CA
Two Los Angeles businessmen arrested for buying rhino horns valued at as much as $2.5 million, to export to Vietnam and China.
NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE, NJ
Suspect arrested in New Jersey after purchasing rhino horns at a service station off of the New Jersey Turnpike.
Irish national from an organized crime ring arrested for purchasing rhino horns in Texas, then traveling to New York to sell the horns for $50,000.
NEW YORK, NY
Antiques expert arrested in Manhattan for purchasing taxidermied black rhinoceros head from an undercover officer in Illinois.
JFK AIRPORT, NY
Chinese national arrested at JFK airport en route to China, for role in trafficking rhino horn.
Antique dealer arrested in February 2013 for his role in smuggling libation cups carved from rhinoceros horns from New York to Hong Kong and China.