Iguana smuggler admits guilt

A Monmouth County, New Jersey, man today admitted falsely labeling as “Toys” a package containing 10 live rhinoceros iguanas that was destined for Hong Kong.

Jason Ksepka, 44, of Farmingdale, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Zahid Quraishi in Trenton federal court to an information, charging him with one count of violating the Lacey Act by falsely labeling an international shipment of wildlife.

Under the Lacey Act, it is unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of U.S. or Indian law, or in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of state or foreign law.

The law covers all fish and wildlife and their parts or products, plants protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and those protected by state law.

CITES includes rhinoceros iguanas, an endangered species of iguana that is endemic to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

According to U.S Attorney Rachael A. Honig, documents filed in this case and statements made in court Ksepka shipped a package via U.S. Priority Mail Express on Nov. 7, 2017, from the U.S. Post Office in Lambertville, New Jersey.

The package contained 10 live rhinoceros iguanas and was destined for Hong Kong.

Ksepka falsely described the contents of the package as “Toys” and the sender as “Luke Jacobs” on a U.S. Postal Service International Shipping Label and Customs Form that accompanied the package.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Inspectors intercepted the package at the mail facility at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 8, 2017, and recovered the animals.

Ksepka was paid $500 by an individual to falsely label the package and ship it to Hong Kong. One year prior to the shipment, the same individual had paid Ksepka $500 to ship about 10 additional rhinoceros iguanas to Hong Kong.

Ksepka has agreed, as part of his plea agreement, to pay a fine of $1,000 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lacey Act Reward Fund.

The charge to which Ksepka pleaded guilty carries with it a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2022.

Honig credited special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, under the direction of Resident Agent in Charge Sean Mann, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen P. O’Leary of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Government Fraud Unit in Newark.

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