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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : August 2000 : Government wants to keep rhino horns seized in investigation

Government wants to keep rhino horns seized in investigation

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 Strickland.

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.



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