Florida Keys News
Saturday, March 2, 2013
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New charges in Lacey Act case
Idaho man accused of buying sea life rearrested for trying to destroy info

An Idaho businessman arrested last week for allegedly buying $6,300 worth of live sharks and rays in the Florida Keys was arrested again Wednesday on allegations he ordered his cousin to destroy evidence while he was out on bail.

Ammon Covino, 39, was charged with violating the conditions of his pretrial release. Prosecutors moved to revoke his bail and extradite him to Key West, where he will be tried, according to federal court records and a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.

Covino directed his nephew, Pete Covino IV, to contact a person in Florida and "destroy certain information" relating to Ammon Covino's request for undersized and illegal nurse sharks, according to DOJ.

Both men were charged with obstruction of justice.

Ammon Covino had been released on $100,000 bail after his first appearance on Feb. 21. A U.S. magistrate judge in Idaho ordered him not to commit any new crimes as one of the conditions of his release.

Covino and Christopher Conk, 40, operate a business called Idaho Aquarium Inc. based in Boise, Idaho. Both men were arrested Feb. 21 on allegations they bought $6,300 in live lemon sharks and eagle rays in the Florida Keys.

Lemon sharks and eagle rays are protected under Florida law.

Both face a maximum of 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

Covino allegedly told a source in the Keys 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, 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.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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