Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Idaho men accused of buying protected marine life

Two Idaho businessmen were arrested Thursday for allegedly buying $6,300 worth of live lemon sharks and eagle rays in the Florida Keys.

Lemon sharks and eagle rays are protected under Florida law.

Christopher Conk, 40, and Ammon Covino, 39, face a maximum of 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines. Their Nov. 8 indictment was unsealed Thursday upon their arrest.

The two men operate a business called Idaho Aquarium Inc., based in Boise, Idaho.

Court records outline conversations between Conk, Covino and a source in the Florida Keys -- not named in the records -- between March and October last year.

Covino allegedly told the source not to worry about permits and to "sneak" two spotted eagle rays to him. Conk reportedly told the source to keep the transactions on the "down low."

Both men as well as the aquarium business itself were indicted on four charges of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and violating the Lacey Act, which makes it illegal to import, export, transport, sell or purchase in interstate commerce any wildlife protected at the state level.

A federal judge in Boise set Conk's bond at $10,000 and Covino's at $100,000, according to KTVB.com news reports. They will be extradited to Key West and are scheduled to be arraigned March 15 at the Sidney M. Aronovitz federal courthouse, 301 Simonton St.

Conk was already serving six years of supervised probation after pleading guilty in 2011 to shipping and selling live coral to buyers around the world, according to federal court records.

In another such case recently, Walter and Lila Bloecker of Aquatic Trading Co. in Pompano Beach were indicted. Federal investigators accused them of conspiring with Keys divers to illegally harvest juvenile nurse sharks and other protected fish from Monroe County waters.

They allegedly bought Florida Keys' nurse shark pups and oversized angelfish to sell to a business owner in Michigan from June 16 to Oct. 31, 2012.

Federal prosecutors have prosecuted many Lacey Act cases in the past five years in the Florida Keys, particularly targeting crawfish divers who use illegal artificial habitats called casitas to harvest lobsters.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

More Florida Keys Headlines
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Available Only in the Electronic Edition
Sunday, December 21, 2014 -
Saturday, December 20, 2014 -
Friday, December 19, 2014 -
Wednesday, December 17, 2014 -
Wednesday, December 17, 2014 -
Tuesday, December 16, 2014 -