U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Take Down Florida Couple Trafficking Indonesian Wildlife
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has released the grand jury indictment of a Florida couple who engaged in a large-scale conspiracy to traffic protected wildlife. The indictment charges the couple with smuggling wildlife from Indonesia to the U.S. and reselling the wildlife from their Florida home.
Beginning in 2011, Novita Indah and Larry Malugin allegedly sold wildlife on eBay from their Indonesian home to buyers across the world. Indah and Malugin falsely labeled packages to conceal their contents and sent the items to the U.S. The couple continued the sales after moving to Puerto Rico and eventually to Florida, according to the Department of Justice release.
All of the wildlife was protected by an international treaty, 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.
While executing a search warrant at the couple’s home, USFWS seized approximately 369 wildlife articles on January 12, 2017. Agents found assorted Javan spitting cobra, reticulated python, and monitor lizard mounts, belts, and wallets, as well as a babirusa skull. A babirusa is a rare Indonesian pig prized for its distinctive curving tusks.
Along with the wildlife, the couple also trafficked in taxidermy mounts and bones of leopard cats, owls, and Southeast Asian primates, including slow loris, macaques, lutungs, and langurs.
The indictment alleges that between 2011 and 2017, Indah and Malugin made approximately 4,596 online sales of protected wildlife worth about $211,212. USFWS and Customs inspectors repeatedly seized packages shipped by Indah and Malugin, but they continued their business using various eBay and PayPal accounts.
Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement notes the impacts the internet has had on illegal wildlife smuggling, stating, “The increased use of the internet has opened a growing pathway for the illegal wildlife trade and wildlife traffickers go to great lengths to smuggle reptiles, birds, primates, and other species in and out of the U.S. The Service would like to thank the U.S. Department of Justice for their assistance with this case. Together, we can combat wildlife trafficking and protect species across the world.”
If convicted, Indah and Malugin face a maximum sentence of 20 years of incarceration on the smuggling charges and five years for the Lacey Act violations.
Posted in The Takedown