Feds Bust Yacht Pimped Out With Endangered Animal Hides, Tusks

Listen up, foreign billionaires who enjoy pimping out your pleasure yachts with the finest in endangered African animal skins: You might want to keep that luxury boat away from Florida.

Surrounded by stuffed lions, mounted, roaring tiger heads and massive carved ivory tusks, U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta announced this morning a major bust of illegal, poached African creatures found on a yacht in the Port of the Everglades.

"Personally, I think these are rather creepy," Acosta admonished the animal poachers of the world. " I wouldn't want to have them in my home."

Here's how the bust went down: On Dec. 18, a cargo transport vessel named Enterprise arrived at Port Everglades via Italy and Spain. On board, inspectors found a 120-foot pleasure yacht named the M/Y Mystere.

When they walked into the yacht, inspectors found nearly every surface

covered in illegal fur or poached ivory: two leopard-hide rugs, seven

ivory tusk ornaments, rugs made from zebra, tiger and jaguar skin, even

an anaconda purse. Everything found on board is illegal, thanks to the international Lacey Act, which banned products made from endangered species after 1973.

The investigation, led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, led to a Cayman

Islands-based corporation called Ruzial, Ltd. Earlier this week, the company agreed to pay a $100,000 fine to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The owners also forfeited all of their illegal animal hides and tusks, worth an estimated another $100,000.

The company and yacht owners can't be charged criminally because they're overseas, Acosta said. "One challenge we often see is that the individuals committing these crimes are outside the jurisdiction of the United States," Acosta said.

More photos of the stash:

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink