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Idaho aquarium chief gets prison in Fla. case

December 2, 2013
Associated Press

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — The president of an Idaho aquarium convicted in the illegal shipping of protected sharks and rays from Florida was sentenced Monday to a year and a day in prison.

U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez in Key West imposed the sentence on 40-year-old Ammon Covino, president of Idaho Aquarium in Boise and co-founder of Portland Aquarium in Oregon. Covino is also barred during two years of probation from working in a wildlife exhibit and cannot purchase or sell animals during that time.

Court documents show Covino admitted involvement in illegally obtaining and shipping three spotted eagle rays and two lemon sharks for the Idaho Aquarium. Also sentenced to four months in prison Monday was Christopher Conk, 40, who was also involved in the illegal shipments. He is also barred from working in the wildlife business during two years' probation.

Both men previously pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and faced a maximum of five years behind bars. During a sentencing hearing, Martinez said the men's conduct "strikes to the very heart of this area and the economy of this area."

Communications that that were intercepted by athorities showed Covino told Florida shippers to ignore the law requiring licenses and permits and send the animals anyway. A Florida businessman who was dealing with Covino was also cooperating with investigators.

The aquarium itself also pleaded guilty, agreeing to pay a $10,000 fine and donate $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation. The aquarium itself will be formally sentenced Tuesday in Key West and could face additional fines.

Conk pleaded guilty in 2011 to selling live coral to buyers around the world and was serving six years' probation.



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