(STL.News) – A Florida couple pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to violating the Lacey Act for their role in trafficking protected wildlife, announced Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
In a plea agreement with the government, Novita Indah, 49, and Larry Malugin, 52, admitted to illegally importing wildlife from Indonesia to their Port Richey home and reselling the wildlife across the country and internationally.
A grand jury indicted the defendants in June 2019 on charges of conspiracy, smuggling, and Lacey Act violations. The defendants admitted that from Oct. 4, 2011, through Jan. 12, 2017, they imported and resold Southeast Asian wildlife in the forms of taxidermy mounts, bones, skins, belts and wallets. The wildlife species included slow loris, babirusa (a rare Indonesian pig prized for its distinctive curving tusks), leopard cat, macaque, lutung, langur, spitting cobra, krait snake, monitor lizard, barn owl and reticulated python. The defendants did not sell any live animals.
Indah and Malugin sold approximately 3,100 wildlife items using eBay to buyers across the United States and the world valued at a total of $211,212. They began trafficking while living in Indonesia and continued to do so as they moved to Puerto Rico and ultimately Florida in 2013. They smuggled the items to purchasers in the United States in packages falsely labeled to conceal their contents.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) seized approximately 369 wildlife articles from the defendants’ home during a Jan. 12, 2017, search warrant. The agents recovered four spitting cobra mounts, one python mount, one krait snake mount, 156 assorted snakeskins, 99 monitor lizard skins, 87 snakeskin and lizard skin wallets, 20 belts with snake heads and a babirusa skull.
All of the wildlife was protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The United States, Indonesia, and approximately 181 other countries are signatories to CITES, which provides a mechanism for regulating international trade in species whose continued survival is threatened by trade. The Lacey Act is the nation’s oldest wildlife trafficking law and, among other things, prohibits selling wildlife that had been illegally brought into the country.
USFWS and U.S. Customs inspectors repeatedly seized packages shipped by Indah and Malugin, but they continued to sell wildlife using multiple eBay and PayPal accounts. This investigation was part of Operation Global Reach, a USFWS long-term taskforce into the flow of illegal wildlife from Indonesia to the United States.
Sentencing has not yet been scheduled. The defendants agreed to forfeit the wildlife seized from their house.
The USFWS Office of Law Enforcement in Redmond, Washington, led the investigation, with the aid of USFWS agents and inspectors in California and Florida and the support of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Trial Attorneys Ryan Connors and Matthew Evans of the Environmental Crimes Section represent the government, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelley Howard-Allen of the Middle District of Florida.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.