Irishman pleads guilty in US rhino horns case

Nov 5, 2013, 7:21 PM

NEW YORK (AP) – An Irishman linked to a criminal Gypsy clan pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges he used forged documents to sell horns from endangered black rhinos to a New York collector for $50,000.

Michael Slattery wept, rubbed his face and waved his arms before entering the plea in federal court in Manhattan, prompting U.S. District Judge John Gleeson to comment, “You look like a nervous wreck.”

Slattery, 23, told the judge he barely knows how to read but understood the trafficking charges.

“I knew I was doing wrong,” the defendant said.

Asked later by Gleeson how he was doing in jail, Slattery claimed that one inmate had threated to “spin my head off,” and that he’d overheard conversations about how a murder suspect “wanted me to sleep with him.”

Prosecutors have identified Slattery as a member of Ireland’s Gypsy minority, known there as travelers. They cited a letter from Irish authorities linking him to an Irish Gypsy criminal network based in the County Limerick village of Rathkeale that’s suspected in dozens of thefts of rhino horns across Europe.

In Rathkeale, the travelers have purchased “most of the real estate in this town in recent years and shown incredible signs of wealth,” the letter said.

According to Europol, thieves known as the Rathkeale Rovers have targeted museums, galleries, zoos, auction houses, antique dealers and private collections in Britain, continental Europe, the United States and South America. It says they were behind a heist this year by masked men who stole stuffed rhinoceros heads containing eight valuable horns from the warehouse of Ireland’s National Museum.

U.S. authorities alleged that Slattery traveled from London to Houston in 2010 to try to buy two horns at a taxidermy auction house. Learning that he needed to be a resident of Texas to make the purchase, he recruited a day laborer to be a straw buyer. He and other unidentified suspects gave the straw buyer $18,000 in $100 bills to complete the deal, a complaint said.

Later that year, Slattery met with a Chinese buyer in Queens and sold four horns using endangered-species bills of sale with fake Fish and Wildlife Service logos on them, the complaint said. It’s unclear where he got the additional two horns, it said.

Slattery was arrested in September at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport while boarding a flight to London. He faces a maximum term of about 2 1/2 years at sentencing early next year, followed by deportation.

In 2011, two Irish nationals from Rathkeale were sentenced to six months behind bars on charges they bought black rhino horns in a sting operation in Colorado. Irish authorities say one of the men is Slattery’s cousin.

___

Follow Hays on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/APtomhays

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Demonstrators block traffic protesting the death of Tyre Nichols on January 27, 2023 in Memphis, Te...
Associated Press

Memphis police chief disbands unit responsible in beating of Tyre Nichols

The unit is composed of three teams of about 30 officers and had been inactive since Tyre Nichols' Jan. 7 arrest.
2 days ago
The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, by the City of Memphis, shows Tyre Nichols on the g...
Associated Press

Memphis authorities release video in Tyre Nichols’ death

Video showing Memphis officers beating a Black man was made public Friday after they were charged with murder in the death of Tyre Nichols.
3 days ago
Demonstrators stage a rally in front of the White House to celebrate President Joe Biden's plan to ...
Kevin Stone

Lawsuits keeping over 300,000 Arizonans from getting student loan relief

Lawsuits are preventing more than 300,000 Arizonans from having some or all of their student debt dismissed, the Biden administration said Friday.
3 days ago
FILE -  A Goodyear tire sits on display at a tire shop on Feb. 12, 2014, in South Euclid, Ohio. A f...
Associated Press

Arizona lawyer subpoenaed in criminal investigation of Goodyear tires

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering evidence in a criminal investigation of Goodyear recreational vehicle tires.
4 days ago
Following days of rain, floodwaters cover streets in the Planada community of Merced County, Calif....
Associated Press

Atmospheric rivers in California boost water allocation for cities

Public water agencies in California will be getting more water from the state because of recent heavy rain.
4 days ago
(Brian Munoz/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)...
Associated Press

FDA declines to regulate CBD; calls on Congress for fix

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday there are too many unknowns about CBD products to regulate them as foods or supplements under the agency’s current structure and called on Congress to create new rules for the massive and growing market. The marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods, while their […]
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Irishman pleads guilty in US rhino horns case