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August 5, 2021

Utah businessman pleads guilty to violations to wildlife, endangered species acts

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah businessman and his company pleaded guilty to violating two federal wildlife protection laws Wednesday, officials said.

Jean-Michel Arrigona, 58, of Midvale, the owner of the taxidermy and skeleton art company Natur, Inc., pleaded guilty in Salt Lake City U.S. District Court to felony violations of the Lacey Act and a misdemeanor violation of the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Department of Justice in a Thursday news release.

Arrigona was indicted by a grand jury in November following an investigation by the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement. Federal prosecutors alleged that he unlawfully imported dead wildlife and resold it at his business.

Authorities said Wednesday that the Midvale resident admitted to federal officials that he imported about 1,500 wildlife items between 2015 and 2020 and that only three packages were declared with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or with U.S. Customs, which is required. Some of the items imported were protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, officials said.

Arrigona and his business agreed to pay at least $23,101 and $5,000 in fines, respectively, Department of Justice officials said. He could face a maximum of five years in prison and $250,000 for violating the Lacey Act, while the Endangered Species Act could result in a $25,000 fine and five years of probation.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 4.

The Lacey Act, which is the country’s oldest wildlife protection law, prohibits anyone from knowingly importing, exporting, transporting, selling, receiving, acquiring or purchasing wildlife that’s in violation of a U.S. law, treaty or regulation. The Endangered Species Act protects species that face the threat of extinction.

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