‘Operation Crash’ Update: US Sentences Rhino Horn Traffickers to Prison

Photo: Karl Stromayer / USFWS
Vinh Chuong “Jimmy” Kha, and Felix Kha, were sentenced to prison for their involvement with a rhino horn trafficking ring operating in the United States. Photo: Karl Stromayer / USFWS

A federal judge has sentenced Vinh Chuong “Jimmy” Kha, and Felix Kha, to 42 and 46 months in prison for their involvement with a rhino horn trafficking ring operating in the United States.

In addition to serving prison time, the Khas must pay a total of $20,000 in criminal fines and pay a $185,000 tax fraud penalty and assessment. Jimmy Kha’s Win Lee Corporation was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine. They must also pay restitution to the Multinational Species Conservation Fund.

Jimmy and Felix Kha, along with Win Lee Corporation, were also ordered to pay a total of $800,000 in restitution to the Multinational Species Conservation Fund, a statutorily created fund that is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to support international efforts to protect and conserve rhinos and other critically endangered species around the world.

However, the Los Angeles Times reports that Jimmy Kha’s attorney convinced Judge Christina Snyder to take a year off the Khas’ sentences by describing “how his client fled the communist rule in Vietnam then built a new life in the U.S. by waiting tables and working at swap meets while raising two sons as a single father”.

In February 2013, Manhattan antiques dealer David Hausman was sentenced to six months in jail followed by one year of supervised release for his role in the trafficking of rhino horns in the United States. Hausman was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Fund and $18,000 to the Rhino Tiger Conservation Fund, along with a $200 special assessment fee. He pleaded guilty in July 2012 to the crimes of obstruction of justice and creating false records in violation of the Lacey Act.

Shusen Wei, the founder of Dongying Yisheng Petroleum Product Sales Co. Ltd. and Vice Chairman of the local Dongying Chamber of Commerce, pleaded guilty in April 2013 to charges arising from his involvement with a rhino horn trafficking ring operating in the United States. Wei was arrested on February 2nd, 2013, at JFK airport — en route to China.

“Operation Crash” is an ongoing nationwide effort led by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Justice Department to crack down on rhino horn trafficking. The investigation resulted in the February 2012 arrests of David Hausman, Felix and Vin Chuong “Jimmy” Kha, Mai Nguyen, Jarrod Wade Steffen, Amir Even-Ezra, and Zhao Feng Jin, and the February 2013 arrests of Zhifei Li, Shusen Wei, and Qing Wang.

Maximum penalties are up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy; five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for Lacey Act violations; and up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for violations of the Endangered Species Act.

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Source: USDOJ

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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.