New York Man Charged in Wildlife Smuggling Operation

( – The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates that the financial value of illicit wildlife trafficking ranges between $7.8 billion and $10 billion annually, excluding the revenue generated by the illegal timber trade and unregulated fisheries. Lawmakers passed the Lacey Act in 1900 to combat the illicit trafficking of fish, plants, and other wildlife. The 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act revised the measure to criminalize the import of certain items without an import declaration. A New York man recently found himself facing charges for illegally smuggling wildlife in violation of that act and other laws.

On October 10, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) announced the indictment of 75-year-old Charles Limmer on six charges related to his alleged illegal importation of butterflies, moths, and other insects. Those criminal counts included falsely labeling and trafficking wildlife, smuggling wildlife into and out of the US, and conspiring to smuggle wildlife into the country.

EDNY prosecutors allege that Limmer trafficked several species of butterflies, collectively known as “birdwings” due to their angular structure and exceptional size. Birdwings are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. One hundred and eighty-four parties signed the agreement in 1973 to ensure the survival of wildlife is not threatened by international trade in plants, animals, and other wildlife.

Limmer reportedly worked with overseas accomplices/collaborators to smuggle hundreds of butterflies and insects into the US, including some of the world’s most endangered. He allegedly directed his foreign co-conspirators to mislabel the shipments as “origami paper craft,” “decorative wall coverings,” and “wall decorations” to conceal his criminal enterprise.

The indictment claims that Limmer sold the illegally important wildlife using online markets like eBay from October 2022 through September 2023. He reportedly imported and exported shipments of deceased moths, butterflies, and insects valued at more than $200,000 during that time frame.

Limmer faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and the forfeiture of over 1,000 specimens if convicted of smuggling.

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