Jack Ely Buchanan, 37, a Las Vegas, Nevada-based criminal defense attorney was sentenced in federal court Jan. 10, to a $25,000 fine for illegally selling a taxidermy mount of a rhinoceros in interstate commerce.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts also sentenced Buchanan to two years of probation and 40 hours of community service. Buchanan had previously pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor Endangered Species Act count for his interstate sale of the threatened rhinoceros.
According to court documents, in June 2014, a prospective buyer in Minnesota emailed Buchanan about the prospect of purchasing a southern white rhinoceros half-mount.
By June 23, 2014, Buchanan and the prospective buyer negotiated and planned the sale of the rhinoceros mount for $6,500.
On that day, Buchanan emailed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Management Authority (FWS) to inquire about the legality of selling the rhinoceros mount.
The FWS responded to Buchanan’s inquiry that the rhinoceros mount “may be, including a transfer, donation, or exchange, only for noncommercial purposes. Thus, sale after import is prohibited.”
On June 30, 2014, the prospective buyer arrived in Las Vegas, rented a moving truck and, together with Buchanan, drove to Buchanan’s residence where he was storing the rhinoceros mount. They loaded the rhinoceros mount, which was made with real rhino hide and horns, into the moving truck and the buyer drove to his home in Minnesota.
Several days after the sale, Buchanan sent the buyer a Transfer of Ownership Note that falsely characterized the transfer of the rhinoceros mount as,” not for purposes of sale, but an in-kind donation of property.”
Rhinoceros horns have been in extremely high demand in Southeast Asia during the last several years. Rhinoceros horn, to which people mistakenly attribute medicinal value and which is also seen as a symbol of status and prosperity, have sold for as much as $25,000 a pound. The horns from Buchanan’s mount could have sold for more than $435,000. Illegal sale of rhino parts fuel the lucrative black market and indirectly contribute to the illegal take of rhinos in the wild.
This investigation began with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents based at the Office of Law Enforcement RAC Office in St. Paul, Minnesota. The prosecution of this case was handled by U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section Trial Attorney Matthew Evans and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Ahmed for the District of Nevada.