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Dozen charged with selling endangered species online

January 6, 2012 |  1:22 pm

A dozen people across Southern California and Nevada are facing criminal charges that they sold endangered species and other wildlife online.

Federal and state officials said they recovered live endangered fish, protected migratory birds, pelts from a tiger, an elephant foot, a polar bear, a bear and a leopard in the investigation.

Officials said the operation began in July and involved several agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game.

"It's this kind of online advertising that creates an international demand for illegal wildlife products," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Rupa Goswami. "It makes poaching and killing endangered and threatened animals much more lucrative."

Those charged were not connected, Goswami said. They face misdemeanor charges that carry a penalties of up to a year in jail. Animals and items were sold for prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to $10,000, officials said.

The backgrounds of those charged are as varied as the items they are accused of selling: James Colburn, 66, of Leona Valley, is charged with selling a bear skin rug; Dan Tram Huynh, 30, of San Diego, allegedly sold a freshwater Asian aworana fish; Karla Trejo, 42, of Sherman Oaks, was charged with selling a Western scrub jay; and Kamipeli Piuleini, 35, of Torrance, allegedly sold a Hawksbill sea turtle shell.

About 70% of illegal sales of wildlife worldwide take place in the United States, according to a study by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

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