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Florida couple charged with trafficking thousands of exotic animals from Indonesia

The Port Richey couple is accused of making more than 4,000 online sales of protected wildlife worth more than $200,000.
Credit: AP
A Zoo official holds a baby reticulated python at the Vandalur Zoological Park near Chennai, India, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2006. (AP Photo)

TAMPA, Fla. — Two people from Port Richey have been charged with conspiracy and trafficking in protected wildlife, according to an unsealed indictment from a federal court in Tampa.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Novita Indah, 48, and Larry Malugin, 51, spent at least six years smuggling wildlife from Indonesia to the U.S. and reselling the animals from their Florida home.

Back in January 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service executed a search warrant on the home and seized about 369 wildlife articles. Agents found Javan spitting cobras, reticulated pythons and monitor lizard mounts, belts and wallets. Agents even found a babirusa skull, which is a rare Indonesian pig prized for its curving tusks.

In addition to the wildlife and products found in their home, the couple is also accused of trafficking in taxidermy mounts and bones of leopards, owls and primates like slow loris, macaques, lutungs and langurs.

The unsealed indictment says the couple began selling wildlife and wildlife products on eBay in 2011 from a home in Indonesia. The court said the two would smuggle items to purchases in the U.S. and around the world in falsely labeled packages. The indictment says Indah and Malugin continued to sell wildlife after they moved to Puerto Rico and eventually Florida in 2013.

The Department of Justice says all of the wildlife was protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The indictment says Indah and Malugin made about 4,596 online sales of protected wildlife worth about $211,212. USFWS and Customs inspectors say agents repeatedly seized packages shipped by the couple, but they continued to sell wildlife using eBay and PayPal accounts.

If convicted of the charges, the two could face up to 20 years in prison and five years for Lacey Act violations. The Lacey Act was established in 1900 as a conservation law that prohibits trade in wildlife or plants that have been taken, possessed, transported or sold, according to USFWS.

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