Texas Antiques Appraiser Fined and Sentenced to Prison for Rhino and Ivory Smuggling Conspiracy

A 43-year-old Frisco, Texas, antiques appraiser has been sentenced to 25 months in prison and fined $150,000 for conspiring to smuggle rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory into China from the U.S.

Ning Qiu was employed as an Asian antique appraiser for a Dallas auction house for seven years. During that time, he was paid to obtain rhino horns, objects made from rhino horn and elephant ivory for Zhifei Li, who was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison in 2014 for conspiracy to smuggle and violations of the Lacey Act.

Enacted in 1900, the Lacey Act prohibits the trade of wildlife, fish or plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold.

Qiu admitted to conspiring with Li to buy raw and carved rhino horns and elephant ivory. Qiu said he traveled around the U.S. to procure these items, with Li providing him instructions on which items to purchase and what to pay. Li paid Qiu by transferring funds directly into his U.S. bank account, and then assisted Qiu in smuggling the items from the U.S. to Hong Kong.

Qiu was also sentenced to three years of supervised release to follow his prison term; his $150,000 fine will be directed to the Lacey Act Reward Fund.

Qiu’s arrest was part of “Operation Crash,” a national effort led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the Department of Justice to prosecute participants in the black market trade of protected species.

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