Man sentenced to prison for trafficking rhinoceros horns

State News

WACO, Texas (KTSM) – A man was sentenced in federal court in Waco, Texas on Wednesday to 12 months in prison for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in relation to illegal rhinoceros horn trafficking, the Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice announced.

John Slattery, who was arrested on Aug. 1, 2019, in Ireland, was extradited to the United States for his role in trafficking horns from black rhinoceros. 

Slattery pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic in horns from black rhinoceros on July 7, 2020.

On May 13, 2014, a federal grand jury sitting in Waco, Texas, returned an indictment that has since been unsealed, charging Slattery and a co-defendant, Patrick Sheridan, with conspiring to traffic in horns from black rhinoceros. 

In addition to conspiracy, the indictment charges substantive violations of the Lacey Act for wildlife trafficking and making a false wildlife document. 

According to documents filed with the court, in September 2010, Slattery traveled with his brother, Michael Slattery Jr. and Patrick Sheridan to a taxidermy shop in Austin, Texas, to purchase rhinoceros horns. 

Upon their first visit to the shop, John Slattery and his co-conspirators were informed that the horns could only be sold to a resident of Texas.  

The following day, Slattery enlisted the help of an individual (now deceased), a Texas resident who acted as a straw buyer, to enable the three co-conspirators to purchase the rhinoceros horns.

As part of the plea, Slattery admitted that through the straw buyer, he and his co-conspirators paid the taxidermist $18,000 for the horns.  

They were given an “Endangered Species Bill of Sale,” which the group later modified and falsified.

Slattery further admitted that after they purchased the horns in Texas, Slattery traveled to New York, where he sold the horns to an individual for $50,000.

Slattery gave the purchaser the falsified “Endangered Species Bill of Sale,” which Slattery and his co-conspirators had modified to make it look as if the sale in Texas was legal, when in fact, it was not.  

Slattery further admitted that he later offered the same individual 10 rhinoceros horns for sale.  That sale was not completed.

In September 2013, Slattery Jr. was arrested in New York and charged in the Eastern District of New York with conspiring with Slattery and Sheridan to traffic rhinoceros horns.  In January 2014, Slattery Jr. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 months in prison for his role in the conspiracy.  In September 2015, Sheridan was extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom.  Sheridan was returned to the Western District of Texas where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months in prison.  In addition to the conspiracy to traffic in rhinoceros horns, Slattery and Sheridan were charged with violating the Lacey Act’s trafficking provision and making a fictitious and fraudulent bill of sale in connection with the rhinoceros horns in an attempt to make their illegal purchase of the horns appear legal.

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