Utah man indicted for selling wildlife illegally brought into the country

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Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

WASHINGTON – A Utah man and his company were indicted on Wednesday on charges of violating the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act for their role in illegal wildlife trafficking.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney John W. Huber of the District of Utah announced the charges on Wednesday.   

58-year-old Jean-Michel Arrigona and his company Natur Inc. in Midvale, reportedly sell wildlife in the forms of art, taxidermy mounts, bones, and skeletons. 

The indictment alleges that Arrigona imported wildlife into the United States without declaring it to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or customs authorities. He later resold the wildlife from the Natur store and its website, according to the United States Department of Justice.

The United States Department of Justice said the Lacey Act is the nation’s oldest wildlife trafficking statute and prohibits, among other things, selling wildlife that had been illegally brought into the country. The Endangered Species Act and federal regulations require importers to declare wildlife when it enters the country. 

According to a news release, between December 2015 and September 2020, Arrigona imported approximately 460 wildlife items without declaring them first.

These items, mostly from Indonesia, included bats, lizards, turtles, insects, starfish,and mollusks, a release said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement in Redmond, Washington, reportedly conducted the investigation as part of Operation Global Reach.

The operation focused on the trafficking of wildlife from Indonesia to the United States.

The United States Department of Justice emphasized that an indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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