Breaking! 2 People Indicted In Separate Cases For Trafficking Elephant Ivory Marks 1st Charges Under The Washington Animal Trafficking Act

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Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the state’s first-ever criminal charges under the Washington Animal Trafficking Act (WATA), a voter-approved initiative banning the sale or transfer of products made from certain endangered species.

Yesterday, Ferguson separately charged Donald Frank Rooney of Everett and Yunhua Chen of Seattle with one count each of first-degree unlawful trafficking in species threatened with extinction for allegedly selling items containing elephant ivory using online listings.

After 70% of Washington voters approved the initiative in 2015, the new law took effect in 2016. WATA makes it a felony to sell, purchase, trade or distribute parts of specific endangered or vulnerable species of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, pangolin, marine turtle, shark or ray.

“Washington voters sent a clear message that trafficking in items made from these endangered species will not be tolerated,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Traffickers are on notice. You will be prosecuted.”

As reported by WAN early last year, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) detectives contacted Rooney In late 2017, after reviewing online listings for items they believed may contain elephant ivory. The detective went to Rooney’s home, and observed dozens of items that possibly contained ivory. The detective purchased three items believed to contain elephant ivory, which genetic testing confirmed. Officers later executed a search warrant on his home, and, as a result, are holding more than 1,600 additional items they suspected may contain ivory.

In a separate investigation, WDFW detectives contacted an out-of-state buyer who allegedly purchased a figurine they suspected may contain ivory from Chen for more than $1,300. Genetic testing confirmed the statue contained elephant ivory.

First-degree unlawful trafficking in species threatened with extinction is a Class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a $10,000 fine and a $4,000 criminal wildlife penalty paid to the WDFW to help fund future enforcement.

The Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the cases at the request of the King and Snohomish county prosecutor’s offices.

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