Another win for Operation Crash

(© AP Images)

The ongoing effort to find and stop people engaged in illegally killing rhinoceros and unlawfully trafficking their horns scored another success as an auction house and its owner pleaded guilty to wildlife trafficking.

Christopher Hayes, president and owner of Elite Decorative Arts, pleaded guilty January 14 in Miami to an illegal wildlife trafficking and smuggling conspiracy in which the auction house sold rhinoceros horns and objects made from rhino horn, elephant ivory and coral that were smuggled from the United States to China.

Operation Crash, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is an ongoing nationwide criminal investigation that addresses all aspects of U.S. involvement in the black-market rhino horn trade.

“As this guilty plea demonstrates, ivory and rhino horn trafficking is not just a problem for other countries to solve,” said Fish and Wildlife director Dan Ashe. “The ongoing slaughter of rhinos and elephants in Africa is driven by rising consumer demand, and United States citizens like Christopher Hayes are intimately involved in illegal trade both here and abroad. We will continue to work with international law enforcement agencies and the international community to apprehend and bring to justice those whose callous disregard threatens the survival of the world’s wildlife heritage.”

More information about this case is available on the Justice Department website.