Irish man faces 10 years in prison after he admits smuggling rhino horn cup from US
An Irish traveller who attempted to smuggle a cup made of endangered rhinocerous horn from Miami to London faces up to 10 years in prison.
Michael Hegarty (40), a member of the notorious Rathkeale Rovers, concealed the rhino horn, which can sell for up to $50,000 per kilo on the black market, in his luggage because it was carved into a Chinese libation cup.
But the Miami Herald is reporting that Hegarty, who is currently in custody, was nabbed as part of Operation Crash, an effort by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Justice to detect, deter and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinoceros and the unlawful smuggling of rhinoceros horns.
Trafficking rhino horn is a violent of the endangered species act and faces up to 10 years in prison followed by up to three years of supervised release, and a maximum fine of $250,000, or up to twice the gross gain.
The Irish man will be sentenced on November 14.
According to Federal authorities Hegarty and co-conspirator and fellow Rathkeale Rover Richard Sheridan, travelled from London to Miami where, with a Florida resident, they bought the libation cup for $57,500 (€48,947).
The pair traveled back to London with the horn to fix some flaws before trying to resell it for a profit. About a month later, Sheridan was arrested by Metropolitan Police in Wandsworth, London, while attempting to sell the same rhinoceros horn libation cup to a Hong Kong native, authorities said.
Hegarty was arrested in Belgium shortly after on the charges on an Interpol Red Notice. He was then extradited to the United States.
“By trafficking in wildlife products, such as items made from a rhinoceros horn, smugglers are fueling the illegal trade in endangered wildlife, which may ultimately lead to the species extinction,” said Ed Grace, acting assistant director of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.