Con­vic­tion in rhino case

Calif. man found guilty of il­le­gally sell­ing horns in Ve­gas

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NEVADA - COM­MEN­TARY By David Fer­rara Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal

A Las Ve­gas fed­eral jury con­victed a man Thurs­day of il­le­gally sell­ing the horns of an en­dan­gered black rhi­noc­eros.

Pros­e­cu­tors said Ed­ward N. Levine, a Cal­i­for­nia man with ties to a Colom­bian drug car­tel, ar­ranged the sale of horns for $55,000 at the South Point ho­tel in March 2014.

The jury of five women and seven men found Levine guilty of con­spir­acy and vi­o­lat­ing the En­dan­gered Species Act and the Lacey Act, which pro­hibit the sale across state lines of pro­tected wildlife.

“It’s not just an en­dan­gered African an­i­mal,” prose­cu­tor Ryan Con­nors told ju­rors dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments. The horns “rep­re­sent thou­sands of dol­lars for him.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice agent Vance Jur­gens wrote in a crim­i­nal com­plaint that the horns are sold on the black mar­ket and used “for or­na­men­tal carv­ings, good luck charms or al­leged Asian medic­i­nal pur­poses.”

The ar­rests of Levine and Lums­den W. Quan were the re­sult of a fed­eral team par­tic­i­pat­ing in “Op­er­a­tion Crash,” which in­ves­ti­gates the il­le­gal killing of black rhi­nos and traf­fick­ing of their horns.

De­fense at­tor­ney Todd Leven­thal ar­gued at trial that Levine had been sub­ject to en­trap­ment and that Jur­gens, and un­der­cover agent, lured him into Ne­vada. Leven­thal said he plans to ap­peal the ver­dict.

RHINO

She joined his 7-year-old Ger­man Shep­herd, Rogue, who grew lonely af­ter her fa­ther, Gam­bit, died six months ago.

“She missed hav­ing a com­pan­ion,” Her­nan­dez said.

Hous­ton was a hun­gry and happy dog when she greeted po­lice of­fi­cers and paramedics at the shel­ter, said Mark Wil­ton, se­nior op­er­a­tions su­per­vi­sor for Amer­i­can Medical.

“She must have eaten six Mc­don­ald’s cheese­burg­ers that day,” he said.

The lo­cal team drove 20 hours straight in six am­bu­lances on Aug. 25. They joined the am­bu­lance com­pany’s 800 other paramedics from 42 states to help pa­tients seek­ing refuge from lo­cal nurs­ing homes, pro­vide standby medical ser­vices and re­spond to 911 calls. Six lo­cal paramedics also were de­ployed to Florida to help vic­tims of Hur­ri­cane Irma.

“Our em­ploy­ees were chomp­ing at the bit to go out there to help,” said Da­mon Schilling, gov­ern­ment af­fairs man­ager. “We’re happy Las Ve­gas could be a part of it.”

Dur­ing their trip, Wil­ton and Her­nan­dez said they saw ex­tra­or­di­nary acts of kind­ness. A line of more than 2,000 vol­un­teers snaked around the Ge­orge R. Brown shel­ter. As the paramedics loaded the trucks with pa­tients in the mid­dle of the night, a cou­ple walked down and of­fered them cof­fee.

See­ing the puppy out­side the shel­ter was a source of com­fort for Her­nan­dez, among ev­ery­thing else he saw that day. A vet es­ti­mated she was 8 months old.

When Her­nan­dez got back to Las Ve­gas, his 4-year-old son ran past him to em­brace the puppy. Even though he is now home with a new fam­ily mem­ber, Her­nan­dez said there is still work to be done for those af­fected by hur­ri­canes Irma and Har­vey.

“This is go­ing to be on­go­ing for years,” he said. “Some peo­ple have noth­ing left.”

Con­tact Bri­ana Erick­son at berick­son@re­viewjour­nal.com or 702-387-5244. Fol­low @bri­anar­erick on Twit­ter.

Joel An­gel Juarez

Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal At­tor­ney Todd Leven­thal, left, and de­fen­dant Ed­ward Levine leave on Thurs­day the Lloyd Ge­orge U.S. Court­house in Las Ve­gas.

El­iz­a­beth Brum­ley

Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal Amer­i­can Medical Re­sponse para­medic Lester Her­nan­dez with Hur­ri­cane Har­vey sur­vivor Hous­ton, a col­lie mix, Thurs­day in Las Ve­gas.

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