An antiques dealer from China has been sentenced to nearly six years in U.S. federal prison after admitting he was the mastermind of an international smuggling ring that specialized in rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory.
Thirty-year-old Zhifei Li was sentenced to 70 months in prison for smuggling more than $4.5 million in goods. The sentence is one of the longest ever imposed in the United States for a wildlife smuggling offense.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says Li, operating through his business Overseas Treasure Finding, paid three antiques dealers in the United States to help him. Officials say Li's crew smuggled 30 rhinoceros horns and other objects made from rhino horn and elephant ivory to China.
Li was arrested last year as part of "Operation Crash," an effort to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of rhinoceros horns and other protected species.
All species of the rhinoceros are protected under U.S. and international law, and trade in rhino horns and elephant ivory has been regulated since 1976.