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Palm Harbor man gets 1 year in prison for trafficking in white rhino horns, elephant tusks

He was forced to give up guns and ammo, investigators say.
Credit: DannyIacob - stock.adobe.com
FILE PHOTO: A white rhinoceros

PALM HARBOR, Fla — A Palm Harbor man has been sentenced to a year and one day in federal prison after prosecutors say he trafficked in endangered species.

The U.S. Department of Justice says 36-year-old Steven Phillip Griffin II drove to Texas in May 2019. There, investigators say he met with undercover agents and paid $9,750 for two southern white rhino horns, four elephant ivory tusks, one African lion skull, and three leopard skulls. He then illegally transported them back to Palm Harbor, according to the DOJ.

During his discussions with a Fish and Wildlife Service undercover agent, prosecutors say Griffin disclosed he collected skulls, full skeletons and other parts from endangered or threatened species – including lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, rhinos and elephants.  

"Griffin also sent numerous photographs of his personal collection, as well as items on his wish list, to the undercover agent via text message," the DOJ wrote in a statement.

A search warrant at his Florida home led to the seizure of various animal parts. He took a plea deal in November 2020 and was recently sentenced in Tampa. 

“This sentence sends a clear message to wildlife traffickers that we and our law enforcement partners are in the business of identifying and apprehending those who exploit protected species for commercial gain,” Special Agent in Charge Phillip Land of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS-OLE) wrote in a statement.

The court ordered Griffin to forfeit the endangered and threatened wildlife parts. He was also forced to surrender 10 firearms and ammunition, which he wasn't legally allowed to have due to a previous conviction.

RELATED: The Florida Aquarium releases 5 endangered sea turtles back into the wild

RELATED: ZooTampa welcomes baby southern white rhino

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