NEW YORK, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- An Irish national pleaded guilty in federal court in New York Tuesday to his role in the black market trafficking of endangered rhinoceros horns.
Michael Slattery Jr., 25, faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, the U.S. attorney's office said in a release. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10
Under his plea agreement, Slattery admitted he and others traveled across the United States to illegally purchase and sell endangered rhinoceros horns.
Slattery was arrested in September as part of a multi-agency investigation called "Operation Crash."
"Slattery and his co-conspirators traveled to the United States to profit from the illegal trade in black rhinoceros horns," Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert Dreher said. "The black rhino is a species that, without our protection, could be headed for extinction in our own time. Rhino horn trafficking is a violation of the laws enacted by Congress to protect endangered species from extinction and the Justice Department will aggressively prosecute those who engage in this egregious market."
The U.S. attorney's office notes rhinoceros, an herbivore species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on Earth, have no known predators other than humans. All species of rhinoceros are protected under U.S. and international law, and all black rhinoceros species are endangered, the office said.
Trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under a treaty signed by more than 170 countries since 1976.