Man receives a year in prison for trafficking elephant and rhino ivory.
California officials have announced an auction official will receive prison time and a huge fine for trafficking elephant and rhino ivory.
Beverly Hills resident Joseph Chait, 38, pled guilty and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and a $10,000 fine in New York District Court the Department of Justice announced in a press release. Chait allegedly claimed items made of rhino and elephant ivory were made of wood or plastic on customs forms and then sold for huge amounts in the U.S. at auction. He was the senior auction administrator for Beverly Hills-based I.M. Chait Gallery.
At least one rhino carving Chait falsely claimed was worth only $108.75 later sold at auction to an undercover agent for a staggering $230,000.
Chait and his co-conspirators also allegedly re-shipped wildlife items without assessing proper sales tax and without required declaration or permits.
Authorities are hoping Chait's sentence will help serve as an example for others who deal in endangered animal parts.
"By illegally trafficking in wildlife, including rhinoceros horns, Joseph Chait and his co-conspirators have fueled the illegal trade in endangered wildlife," U.S. Attorney Preet Bhara said in a press release. "Chait's conduct, a federal crime for which he will now spend time in prison, threatened the already precarious existence of certain endangered species of animals."
Chait was also caught dealing in coral in the investigation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents who eventually busted him. "The stiff sentence and fines imposed today on Joseph Chait for his crimes serves notice to those engaged in similar criminal activity that their day of reckoning in court is coming," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe said.
Once released from prison, Chait will be under three years of supervised release in addition to the hefty fine.