Utah Man and His Company Indicted for Wildlife Trafficking

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MONITOR ADULT LIZARD

MIDVALE, UT – A Utah man and his company were charged in an indictment today with violating the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act for their role in illegal wildlife trafficking, announced 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.

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Jean-Michel Arrigona, 58, and his company Natur, Inc. in Midvale, Utah, 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.

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.  Between December 2015 and September 2020, Arrigona imported approximately 460 wildlife items without declaring them.  The wildlife, primarily from Indonesia, included bats, lizards, turtles, insects, starfish, and mollusks.  Arrigona did not import any live animals.  Some of the wildlife, such as the flying fox (Pteropus sp.) and monitor lizard (Varanus sp.) are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates trade in endangered or threatened species through permit requirements.  The United States and 182 other countries are signatories to the CITES treaty.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement in Redmond, Washington, conducted the investigation as part of Operation Global Reach.  The operation focused on the trafficking of wildlife from Indonesia to the United States.  Trial Attorney Ryan Connors of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Melina Shiraldi for the District of Utah are prosecuting the case.

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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