Ontario Cyber Trader Convicted for Selling Endangered Species

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Trading on the internet in endangered species, as well as goods containing their parts, could land you in jail. Mark J. Gleberzon, age 36, of Toronto, Ontario was convicted yesterday in the Ontario Court of Justice - Criminal Division, for unlawfully exporting endangered species from Canada to the United States. His conviction was based on a series of unlawful transactions involving endangered species, carried out on a popular internet-based auction site. Mr. Gleberzon was given a 12-month conditional sentence during which he will be subject to stringent terms and conditions, including four months of house arrest, and the obligation to perform 200 hours of community service. During this 12-month period, Mr. Gleberzon's activities will be carefully scrutinized - particularly his internet activities. The judge also ordered forfeiture of numerous artifacts containing endangered species.

The illegal internet trade in endangered species is a multi-million dollar a year international industry and is responsible for driving some of the world's most vulnerable creatures to the brink of extinction. Mr. Gleberzon allegedly traded in goods containing parts from endangered species such as African elephant, Himalayan pheasant, birds of paradise, sperm whale, walrus and long-eared owls.

Endangered animal and plant species are listed in an international agreement called the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES sets controls, through a permit system, on the international trade and movement of animal and plant species that are endangered, and have been or may be threatened due to excessive commercial exploitation.

In Canada, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) is the legislative vehicle by which Canada meets its obligations under CITES. Environment Canada is the department responsible for enforcing these regulations on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Mr. Gleberzon's conviction concluded a two-year investigation jointly undertaken by special agents from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and officers of Environment Canada's Wildlife Enforcement Directorate. The investigation included the establishment of covert computer communications with Mr. Gleberzon and the subsequent purchase and delivery of numerous endangered animals to an undercover officer in the United States. The investigation concluded in May 2005, with Mr. Gleberzon's arrest in New York City and the execution of a search warrant at his Toronto residence.

Mr. Gleberzon was convicted of operating without CITES permits, which are required to legally import and export endangered species in or out of Canada. Mr. Gleberzon faced numerous other charges in Canada under WAPPRIITA. His final conviction on the one charge noted above followed lengthy and multi-national plea negotiations. He is also facing similar charges laid by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.