The Associated Press State & Local Wire
August 25, 2000
DENVER - Federal authorities are seeking legal possession of four
black rhinoceros horns worth as much as $1 million after they were
seized in a criminal investigation five years ago.
The horns, prized around the world for use in folk medicines and
aphrodisiacs, were seized in La Junta in October 1995 after three
men allegedly tried to sell them to an undercover agent posing as
a wealthy New York businessman.
The black rhinoceros is endangered and possession and sale of its
horns is illegal. The horns offered for sale in La Junta were from
animals killed in the 1950s and were brought to Colorado legally,
but selling them across state lines would have violated the Endangered
Species Act, court documents said.
The men who allegedly tried to sell the horns were not prosecuted.
The government decided to seek possession of the horns through civil
action, said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Thomas
Negotiations with the owner were inconclusive and government officials
filed a forfeiture action in court this week.
Dorschner said the government would keep the horns at the National
Wildlife Property Repository in Denver and use them for education.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Roger Gephart said John Beck
of La Junta, who owned the horns, along with Richard A. Simpson
of Las Animas and Simpson's son, Thom, of Goodwell, Okla., placed
ads in New York newspapers in May 1995 offering nine kilograms of
"rare black rhino horn" at $125 per gram. Neither the
Simpsons nor Beck could be reached for comment.