Arongkron “Paul” Malasukum, a resident of Woodside, New York, pleaded guilty today to illegally trafficking parts from endangered African lions and tigers.
The guilty plea was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Wood for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Brit Featherston, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.
Malasukum, 41, pleaded guilty today in Plano, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson for the Eastern District of Texas, to a one count information charging him with wildlife trafficking in violation of the Lacey Act.
In papers filed in federal court in April 2016, Malasukum admitted to purchasing a tiger skull from undercover agents who were working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Malasukum also admitted to purchasing lion skulls from an auction house in Texas through the undercover agents on another occasion. The agents were acting as “straw buyers” for Malasukum. Malasukum, who knew his out-of-state purchases could draw attention from federal law enforcement, gave the undercover agents cash and told them which items to bid on and ultimately win. After the purchases, Malasukum shipped the tiger and lion skulls from Texas to his home in Woodside, New York. From New York, Malasukum shipped the skulls to Thailand for sale to a wholesale buyer.
As part of his plea, Malasukum admitted that between April 9, 2015 and June 29, 2016, he exported approximately 68 packages containing skulls, claws, and parts from endangered and protected species, with a total fair market value in excess of $150,000. All of the exports were sent to Thailand.
“This guilty plea is another positive result from the continued partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Justice Department,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood. “Together we will continue to investigate and prosecute those who engage in illegal trade in protected wildlife.”
“Reasonable laws are in place to protect endangered animals, and to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to see and enjoy wildlife as we do today,” said Acting United States Attorney Featherston. “There are fewer than four thousand tigers remaining in the wild and they must be protected from harm. Malasukum’s illegal actions breed further destructive behavior by others, such as the poaching of other endangered animals for greed. Lawful hunting and conservation go hand in hand; and law enforcement will protect those animals that are deemed endangered.”
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works to combat the illegal international and interstate trafficking of wildlife,” said Acting Assistant Director of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ed Grace. “We work closely with the Department of Justice and others to investigate these cases and will continue to apprehend those who exploit these species for commercial gain.”
The investigation was handled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas, the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Noble and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.