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After smuggling endangered rhino horns, woman fined $2,000 and gets probation (Los Angeles, California)

By February 27, 2020Law & legislation
Priscella Vega, The LA Times | February 25, 2020

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A woman convicted of participating in an Orange County-based scheme to smuggle the horns of endangered black rhinoceroses across the globe was sentenced this week to three years’ probation and a $2,000 fine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nhu Mai Nguyen’s probation period includes one year of home detention, authorities said. She also was ordered to forfeit 100 blocks of gold and $9,000 in cash seized from a safety deposit box, according to a document signed by Central Court District Judge Christina A. Snyder.

Nguyen told Snyder through a translator Monday, “I know that what I’ve done is wrong. If your honor would forgive me for what I did,” City News Service reported. Nguyen’s attorney, Mona Soo Hoo, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nguyen is among six people who pleaded guilty in 2012 for taking part in an international smuggling ring, based in Garden Grove, that sold black rhinoceros horns to Vietnam and China between 2011 and 2012. Some believe the horns have medicinal powers.

Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, cites the poaching of rhinos for their horns as one of the main reasons the species is endangered.

In 2013, Nguyen’s boyfriend, Vinh Chuong Kha, also known as Jimmy Kha, was sentenced to 42 months in jail, for their involvement in the ring. His son, Felix Kha, was sentenced to 46 months. They also paid $10,000 fines and about $175,000 in restitution to the IRS, according to authorities.

“By taking out this ring of rhino horn traffickers, we have shut down a major source of black market horn and dealt a serious blow to rhino horn smuggling both in the U.S. and globally,” said Dan Ashe, then director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Federal wildlife agents in California and other states, working together on an investigation dubbed “Operation Crash,” cracked the ring by tracking hundreds of thousands of dollars through bank wire transfers and travel records.