Operation Crash: U.S. Sentences Rhino Horn Smuggler to Prison

Zhifei Li and his network of co-conspirators smuggled 30 rhinoceros horns and numerous objects made from rhino horn and elephant ivory worth more than $4.5 million from the United States to China. Photo: justice.gov / usao
Zhifei Li and his network of co-conspirators smuggled 30 rhinoceros horns and numerous objects made from rhino horn and elephant ivory worth more than $4.5 million from the United States to China. Photo: justice.gov / usao

Chinese national Zhifei Li, who pleaded guilty in December 2013 to orchestrating the smuggling of rhino horn and ivory from the United States to China, has been sentenced in U.S. District Court in Newark to five years and ten months in prison.

Li owns an antiques business called “Overseas Treasure Finding” in Shandong, China. He was arrested in January 2013 as part of “Operation Crash” — an ongoing nationwide effort led by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Justice Department to crack down on rhino horn trafficking.

According to court documents, Li worked with at least three co-conspirators. He wired hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of them, while the other two co-conspirators purchased rhino horns from various sources, including an auction house in Missouri.

“Li admitted that he was the ‘boss’ of three antique dealers in the United States whom he paid to help obtain wildlife items and smuggle them to him via Hong Kong.”

Between December 2010 and January 2013, Li and his network of co-conspirators smuggled 30 rhinoceros horns and numerous objects made from rhino horn and elephant ivory worth more than $4.5 million from the United States to China.

Learn more about this investigation: Check out our articles tagged Operation Crash.


Comments

comments

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.