Irish man sentenced in US after he admits to smuggling rhino horn cup
An Irish man who attempted to smuggle a cup made of endangered rhinocerous horn from Miami to London has been sentenced up to 18 months in prison.
Michael Hegarty (40), a member of the notorious Rathkeale Rovers, concealed the rhino horn, which can sell for up to $50,000 (€42,410) per kilo on the black market, in his luggage because it was carved into a Chinese libation cup.
According to the Miami Herald, Hegarty 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.
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 on January 19. He was then extradited to the United States in July.
"Today's sentencing is the result of the strong partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those who engage in illegal trade in protected wildlife," said Ed Grace, acting assistant director of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"There is a frequent connection between wildlife smuggling and organised criminal activity. We remain committed to combating this illegality."