By Steve Guntli
A Canadian man accused of smuggling rare rhinoceros horns out of Point Roberts has been sentenced to 30 months in jail.
On March 25, Xiao Ju “Tony” Guan, 39, from Richmond, B.C. faced a federal judge and received his sentence. Guan was the subject of a lengthy sting operation, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Operation Crash program. Authorities have been monitoring Guan’s activity since March 2014. He was arrested in May 2014 and pleaded guilty in November.
“Wildlife smuggling is a transnational crime that knows no borders and requires an international response,” said assistant attorney general John C. Cruden “Cooperation between the United States and Canadian law enforcement was crucial to cracking this case.”
Guan, owner of Bao Antiques in Richmond, was arrested in New York City, along with a female accomplice who acted as his interpreter. Guan had arranged to purchase two rare black rhino horns from undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents for $45,000. After making the purchase, Guan asked the agents to drive him to a nearby package delivery store so he could mail the horns to an address in Point Roberts, approximately 17 miles from his home in Canada. Guan told the agents he had accomplices in Canada who used the Point Roberts location frequently to smuggle animal parts.
After he was arrested, Canadian authorities searched Guan’s store and seized several items carved from endangered elephant ivory and coral. Nine items were determined to have been smuggled in from the United States. Some were shipped directly to Canada and others to the Point Roberts address. In addition to the contraband animal parts, authorities found approximately 50,000 ecstasy pills in the store.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain ordered Guan to forfeit wildlife items found during a search of his business. Calling it “a very serious offense,” Judge Swain said Guan “helped to feed a hot market for these goods” and said his conduct “feeds demand for the slaughter of rare and already endangered species.”
Black rhino horns are in high demand on the black market, particularly in Chinese and Southeast Asian communities. Horns are used for ornamental carvings or are sold in powdered form as a cure-all. A single black rhino horn can fetch up to $25,000. All species of rhino are protected under U.S. and international law, and under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.