Box of 'toys' was actually 10 endangered rhinoceros iguanas shipped from NJ, feds say

  • In US
  • 2022-01-26 17:42:37Z
  • By Miami Herald

A package headed for Hong Kong was labeled as "toys" when there was nothing of the sort inside, according to federal officials.

Instead it contained 10 live, rhinoceros iguanas - an endangered species that can grow up to 4.5 feet long.

Now, New Jersey man Jason Ksepka, 44, of Farmingdale was sentenced to six months of home confinement and three years of probation for "falsely labeling an international shipment of wildlife" on Jan. 25, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey said in a news release.

By doing so, he violated the Lacey Act, which makes it illegal to falsely identify wildlife "intended to be transported in foreign commerce," according to court documents.

Ksepka was paid $500 by an individual, whose name wasn't mentioned, to label the box with 10 iguanas inside as "toys" after the person paid him $500 the year prior to mail a separate shipment of 10 rhinoceros iguanas to Hong Kong, the news release said.

McClatchy News has reached out to Ksepka's attorney for comment.

Rhinoceros iguanas are "threatened with extinction" since they're included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora's Appendix 1, court documents point out.

Ksepka was caught after he tried mailing the second shipment of endangered creatures through U.S. Priority Mail Express from a post office in Lambertville and used the false name "Luke Jacobs" to identify himself as the sender, according to prosecutors.

The rhinoceros iguanas were stopped from leaving the U.S. when the box was intercepted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors at a mail facility at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, federal officials said. The reptiles were recovered from the package.

Ksepka pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act prior to his sentencing, according to the attorney's office. He was ordered by a judge to not "take" wildlife, meaning he can't engage in "harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, trapping, capturing, or collecting wildlife or attempting to engage in such conduct."

He's also not allowed to "import, export, transport, sale, purchase, or barter of any wildlife."

Additionally, Ksepka had entered a plea agreement and must pay $1,000 toward FWS' Lacey Act Reward fund, the news release said.

Rhinoceros iguanas are native to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, where Haiti and the Dominican Republic are located.

The business of wildlife trafficking is considered an "international crisis" by FWS.

It "generates more than $10 billion a year for transnational organized criminal networks," according to the State Department.

Farmingdale is in Monmouth County and is about 59 miles south of New York City.

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