Operators of Idaho Aquarium Arrested for Wildlife Violations

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ole/newsroom/stories/13/idaho-aquarium.html


Operators of Idaho Aquarium Arrested for Wildlife Violations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 21, 2013
Florida Indictment Alleges Two Illegally Purchased Marine Life
BOISE – Ammon Covino, 39, of Meridian, Idaho, and Christopher Conk, 40, of Middleton, Idaho, were arrested today for violations of the Lacey Act, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. A federal grand jury in the Southern District of Florida returned a sealed indictment on November 8, 2012, charging the defendants with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and violating the Lacey Act by purchasing Florida protected marine life in interstate commerce.

The four count indictment, which was unsealed today, alleges that Covino and Conk purchased four spotted eagle rays (Aeobatus nairnari) and two lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) for approximately $6,300. The marine wildlife were allegedly harvested illegally and without a permit.

Covino and Conk appeared this afternoon before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale at the federal courthouse in Boise. The court ordered the defendants to appear on March 15, 2013, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow, at the Sidney M. Aronovitz Federal Courthouse in Key West, Florida.

The defendants are each charged with one count of Conspiracy and three counts of Illegal Purchase and Sale of Fish/Wildlife.Each count is punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and at least three years of supervised release. The indictment also includes a forfeiture count.

The case is being investigated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

An indictment is only an allegation of criminal conduct and is not evidence of guilt. A person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Contact:

Alicia Valle
Public Information Officer
Southern District of Florida
Email: [email protected] (preferred)
Main Telephone: (305) 961-9001

Replies

  • Pucker FactorPucker Factor Posts: 875 Officer
    I think he should buy a lottery ticket.

    http://keysnews.com/node/45955

    New charges in Lacey Act case

    Idaho man accused of buying sea life rearrested for trying to destroy info

    BY ADAM LINHARDT Citizen Staff
    [email protected]

    An Idaho businessman arrested last week for allegedly buying $6,300 worth of live sharks and rays in the Florida Keys was arrested again Wednesday on allegations he ordered his cousin to destroy evidence while he was out on bail.

    Ammon Covino, 39, was charged with violating the conditions of his pretrial release. Prosecutors moved to revoke his bail and extradite him to Key West, where he will be tried, according to federal court records and a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.

    Covino directed his nephew, Pete Covino IV, to contact a person in Florida and "destroy certain information" relating to Ammon Covino's request for undersized and illegal nurse sharks, according to DOJ.

    Both men were charged with obstruction of justice.

    Ammon Covino had been released on $100,000 bail after his first appearance on Feb. 21. A U.S. magistrate judge in Idaho ordered him not to commit any new crimes as one of the conditions of his release.

    Covino and Christopher Conk, 40, operate a business called Idaho Aquarium Inc. based in Boise, Idaho. Both men were arrested Feb. 21 on allegations they bought $6,300 in live lemon sharks and eagle rays in the Florida Keys.

    Lemon sharks and eagle rays are protected under Florida law.

    Both face a maximum of 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

    Covino allegedly told a source in the Keys not to worry about permits and to "sneak" two spotted eagle rays to him. Conk reportedly told the source to keep the transactions on the "down low."

    Both men as well as the aquarium business itself were indicted on four charges of conspiracy to violate, and violating, the Lacey Act, which makes it illegal to import, export, transport, sell or purchase in interstate commerce any wildlife protected at the state level.

    A federal judge in Boise set Conk's bond at $10,000 and Covino's at $100,000, according to KTVB.com news reports. They will be extradited to Key West and are scheduled to be arraigned March 15 at the Sidney M. Aronovitz federal courthouse, 301 Simonton St.

    Conk was already serving six years of supervised probation after pleading guilty in 2011 to shipping and selling live coral to buyers around the world, according to federal court records.

    [email protected]
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