Conviction in rhino case
Calif. man found guilty of illegally selling horns in Vegas
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter.
Las Vegas Review-journal Attorney Todd Leventhal, left, and defendant Edward Levine leave on Thursday the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Review-journal American Medical Response paramedic Lester Hernandez with Hurricane Harvey survivor Houston, a collie mix, Thursday in Las Vegas.