Tag Archives: Law enforcement

Crossing the line: Illegal Exports of Monkey Blood

Illegal transport of squirrel monkey blood has one company paying the price.  As a result of undercover investigation “Operation Sanguis” led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the owner of BioChemed Services Inc, a biological product company, has pleaded guilty of creating and submitting false labels of animal products to avoid screening requirements. BioChemed is a broker of human and animal blood products, supplying research companies with samples for biomedical research.

To avoid over-exploitation of wildlife, purchasing and shipping animal blood requires special permitting. The Office of Law Enforcement discovered that the owner of BioChemed, Philip Lloyd, and/or his employees, intentionally packaged and shipped animal blood falsely labeled as human blood to avoid permits and higher costs. In this attempt to evade the law, Lloyd also shipped the correct labels later in a separate FedEx envelope, which was not subject to inspection by service officials. This international order to Canada was placed in January 2014 by a Service special agent working covertly.

The international shipment contained blood from squirrel monkeys, an animal protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”). CITES is an international agreement that protects fish, wildlife and plant populations that could be harmed as a result of trade and restricts transport of at-risk species. Without proper permits, these actions violate the treaty and puts wildlife at risk.

Squirrel monkey photo by Tambako The Jaguar/ Creative Commons

Lloyd pleaded guilty in Federal Court in the Eastern District of Virginia.   In March 2017, Lloyd was sentenced to four months incarceration and a $250,000 fine.

In addition, Service special agents collaboratively worked with Homeland Security Investigations who coordinated with South Korean investigators.  Based on information uncovered during the investigation, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency arrested the owner of Biomedex Korea, for violations of the Korean Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act, Wildlife Protection and Management Act, and customs law.  The Korean subject admitted that from 2008 to 2016, she smuggled animal blood plasma and serum, labeled as “human blood” over 260 times into South Korea from the United States.

 

My life after the internship: Gabriel Harper

This year, we checked in with some of our past interns to find out what came next after their internship ended. Did they stay with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or land another sweet job? We hope they put those skills to good use! Look out for these stories to find out about their life after the internship. Today, meet Gabriel Harper, a superstar federal wildlife officer. Below, find out where he started with us and how he got where he is now.

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Gabriel Harper began his career with the Service through the Conservation Internship Program, now the Career Discovery Internship Program, a partnership between the Service and The Student Conservation Association to help prepare the next generation of wildlife professionals and managers.

The Student Conservation Association allowed for my first true glimpse into the world of conservation. I began my internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May 2009, at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach. With minimal prior knowledge of the agency, I approached this venture with an open mind and eager attitude. It was the summer of many “firsts” for me! Back Bay afforded me my first time camping, fishing, kayaking, and birding, while also having the duties of giving interpretive speeches and leading guided tours throughout the refuge.

From what was initially intended to be a 12-week internship, with the support from my supervisors, I was converted to a federal career intern position as a park ranger with the Service within a year of my arrival. Shortly thereafter, I transitioned to permanent employee status, where I led guided tours for schools and other large groups, providing information on wildlife and habitat management. Some of my other job duties included assisting the biology staff members with the threatened sea turtle protection program, wildlife surveys, and invasive species control. I developed a passion for outreach, and it led me to look for new innovative ways to bring minorities to experience all the opportunities the great outdoors have to offer.

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Gabriel during a broadcast at the National Conservation Training Center about illegal wildlife trade.

In 2011, my passion for the environment led me to pursue a career in law enforcement. After close to a year in training, I was sworn in as a federal wildlife officer with the Service. This unique career field equipped me with the tools and skills necessary to confront illegal hunting, trapping, and harvesting of wildlife and plants. I found that I wasn’t too far from my foundation. A typical day could consist of me teaching youth how to fish, conduct a deer poaching investigation, meet with state conservation officers to discuss an upcoming deer decoy operation, stop and investigate a DUI (driving under the influence) on a refuge, or even assist in natural disaster relief efforts anywhere in the US.

Now in my fourth year with the Service, I work at Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland. I continue to manifest fervent hunger that propelled me in the past days when I was seeking employment. There is still so much I feel needs to be done to bring awareness about our mission. On an individual level, I have made myself available to different programs throughout the agency such as the Service Honor Guard, the special operations response team, and the diversity change agents. My commitment to protect our natural resources is rejuvenated every time I step foot on my refuge.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Honor Guard.

A day in the life of a federal wildlife officer

“Normally that would be a suspicious vehicle to me,” says Samantha Fleming as she patrols a Patuxent Research Refuge road that is closed to motorized traffic. “But it’s okay. That’s Bill Harms, a volunteer who’s collecting vegetation samples” for Patuxent’s herbarium.

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Federal wildlife officer Samantha Fleming embarks on a pre–dawn patrol of Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland. Credit: Bill O’Brian/USFWS

Fleming, a federal wildlife officer at the Maryland refuge, knows its 12,841 acres and the people who frequent them like the back of her hand.

“It’s important to have relationships with visitors. Lots of times they’re your eyes and ears. They let you know what’s going on,” says Fleming. “The better you know them, the better they feel about the refuge, the safer they feel on the refuge” and the more likely they are to report something happening on the refuge. In addition to chatting up, checking on or nodding to visitors, she relies on the U.S. Park Police, county police and other law enforcement agencies for help. “I need all the support I can get,” she says.

“Patuxent is challenging because it is an urban refuge,” Fleming says. “We are 20 minutes from D.C. and 20 minutes from Baltimore, so we get an influx of people.” Another challenge is that the refuge has three separate tracts in two counties.

On this day, Fleming started on the North Tract, “where the majority of hunting and fishing goes on,” she says. “That’s our biggest challenge, trying to cover the 8,000 acres, which is small in comparison to most places, but there is such a diverse use up here and it’s so accessible to the public that we stay very, very busy.”

Next, she drove 20 minutes to the 2,540–acre South Tract, where the refuge visitor center is. “We had a rash of vehicle break–ins. We’ve had to update our camera system.” Today all was quiet, so she checked out Service land along Maryland Route 197, which bisects the refuge and is the scene of frequent auto accidents that result in refuge fence damage.

The Central Tract is why it’s called Patuxent Research Refuge. The tract houses the U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and endangered species/migratory bird facilities. The tract is generally closed to the public, but errant bicyclists, lost drivers and speeding delivery vehicles cause problems. With about 200 people from various agencies working on the refuge, issues regarding research permits and personnel matters arise, too. Everything in order on this Saturday, Fleming gassed up and headed back to the North Tract.

Fleming has been interested in the law and protecting animals since she was growing up near Boston. She enjoys being outside. She especially likes that—even though she’s on call pretty much 24/7—“no day is like any other day.”

And she loves seeing kids catch their first fish. “Sometimes they have to have their dad or mom help them pull the fish in because it’s so big, and they’ve got a smile that’s ear–to–ear. And you can tell right then and there they’re hooked,” she says. “Same thing with hunting.”

Back on the North Tract, she helped two young hunters measure wild turkeys they took and reminded them to report the kills to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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Fleming checks the hunting license of Patuxent Refuge visitor Christian Wilder. Credit: Bill O’Brian/USFWS

She also touched based with 10–year–old Sebastian Wilder. On this day, Sebastian did not bag a turkey. But his father, Christian, was grateful for the opportunity.

“It’s hard for me to sum up what the refuge means to me,” Christian Wilder said, “because I’ve been coming here since I was younger than my son is. I look forward to him growing up here, my daughter growing up here and hopefully their children growing up here.”

He said he and Sebastian will be back next year for the youth turkey hunt.

Samantha Fleming likely will be there, too, checking them in, checking out their harvest and, as always, checking on the refuge.

This story was contributed by Bill O’Brian, a Service writer and editor, and was originally published in the January/February 2014 issue of Refuge Update.