A federal investigation involving Jim Lolli of Lolli Brothers Livestock Market in Macon, Mo. and former Macon Police Chief Scott Ziebarth, results in the arrests of seven people in various states. The seven were allegedly involved in the sale of black rhinoceros horns, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
According to a press release from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the seven arrested include:
1. Jin Zhao Feng, a Chinese national who allegedly oversaw the shipment of at least dozens of rhino horns from the United States to China.
2. Jimmy Kha, the owner of Win Lee Cooperation; his son Felix Kha; and Mai Nguyen, the owner of a nail salon where packages containing rhinoceros horns were being mailed.
3. Wade Steffen, arrested in Hico, Texas and accused of being a supplier of rhinoceros horns.
4. Amir Even-Ezra arrested in New Jersey on a felony trafficking charge in violation of the Lacey Act after purchasing rhino horns from an individual from New York at a service station off a New Jersey Turnpike.
5. David Hausman, an antiques expert, who has been charged with illegally trafficking rhinoceros horns and with creating false documents to conceal the illegal nature of the transaction, both in violation of the Lacey Act.
The press release also indicates that federal agents have seized 37 rhinoceros horns and more than $1 million in cash and another $1 million in gold ingots.
"These individuals conspired to bring rhino horns from all over the country to a main port here in Los Angeles, where they were to connect with a Chinese national who would export those rhino horns to China at enormous profits," said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte.
"The reason rhinos are valuable right now is because there's been sort of a myth out there that rhinos cure cancer. The price has absorbingly increased rhino horn sells to $25,000 per pound in some Asian countries," said Edward Grace from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As far as we know, Jim Lolli and Scott Ziebarth have not been charged, but they are mentioned in the federal court documents regarding the case.
According to the court documents, investigators allege that since January 26, 2010, Jim Lolli has sent 19 packages from Macon to California to Win Lee Corporation, which is owned by Jimmy Kha, who has been arrested in the investigation. The records were obtained from FedEx and the United States Postal Service.
Out of those 19 packages, seven of those packages were opened and 18 rhinoceros horns were found inside. Investigators state that genetic testing reveals that one of the horns is from a black rhinoceros and they have found that another one of the horns seized was from a black rhinoceros based on a photographic review conducted by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensic Scientist.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agents have also reviewed the bank records of Jim Lolli at the Atlanta State Bank. The accounts under review include the Lolli Brothers Livestock Special Sales and the Lolli Brothers Livestock Auction Expense Account. The court documents indicate that the Lolli Brothers Livestock Special Sales account has received checks from Wade Steffen, (one of the arrested) , totaling $19,494 and 14 wire transfers totaling $121,512 from Felix and/or Jimmy Kha. (Both have been arrested in the investigation. )
The court documents also allege that Mai Nguyen, one of the people arrested, was picked up at the Kansas City Airport in a vehicle driven by Scott Ziebarth, a former Macon Police Chief on several occasions. Later in the documents, it indicates that U.S. Fish & Wildlife Special Agents spotted Ziebarth driving a police vehicle on Sept. 26, 2011. This is the same day that the Special Agents observed Ziebarth picking up Nguygen at the Kansas City Airport.
We asked the current Macon Police Chief Steve Olinger if Ziebarth is still on staff at the Macon Police Department and why he was seen driving a police car.
"The comment that I heard [was] that he was seen driving a police vehicle. It wouldn't be a Macon Police vehicle," said Olinger. He has no affiliation with the City of Macon. He has not been affiliated with the City of Macon since he walked out of here in April of 2002."
Olinger said the Macon Police Department is not involved in the investigation .
The Federal court papers also indicate that Ziebarth took part in some of the transactions involving rhino horns.
We tried to contact Jim Lolli and Scott Ziebarth and could not get in touch with them. At the Lolli Brothers Livestock Market, the workers said Jim Lolli was not there and that they had no comment regarding the investigation. When we went to Jim Lolli's home on Sunset Drive, a woman answered the door and said she had "no comment" and then when our reporter asked if Jim Lolli was home, she said, "You need to get off my property right now or I will call the police. " When our reporter arrived at Scott Ziebarth's home on State Highway Pp, a dog was sitting in front of the door. We called his house phone and no one answered.
To see our previous story and to read the actual paperwork from the federal court in California, click here.
Also, here is a link to the press release regarding the overall investigation.