Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Venezuelan charged in wildlife case

Federal wildlife officers nabbed another person accused of illegally taking coral and animals from the Florida Keys for sale, according to the Department of Justice.

David Pharo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service resident agent in charge with the U.S. Attorney's Office, charged Oscar H. Cordova-Cobian, 42, of Caracas, Venezuela, with illegally exporting and attempting to export regulated live corals, live rock, clams and other marine invertebrates from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, according to a DOJ press release.

Cordova-Cobian faces a possible sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of probation, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Pharo has been the agent working alongside National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agents in the Keys to stamp out the illegal sale of Keys wildlife for use in the aquarium trade.

Cordova-Cobian operates a Website in which he sells marine life, including ornamental fish and corals, according to court records.

The government alleges he attempted to export some 136 specimens of coral and other wildlife in May at Miami International Airport in his checked baggage without the required licenses, records state.

He is accused of violating the Lacey Act, which makes it a federal offense to import, export, transport, sell or purchase in interstate commerce any wildlife protected at the state level.

It's the same law used over the past five years to prosecute a number of Keys defendants in the lobster casita cases.

There have been numerous defendants charged in Operation Rock Bottom since federal law enforcement agents (working with U.S. Assistant Attorney Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald) began making cases public in late 2012.

It's unclear if Cordova-Cobian was charged in relation to that operation or a larger case.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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