Two Irish men have been sentenced to six months in prison and three years probation along with a $17,600 fine for the attempted theft of rhinoceros horns, out of Denver, Colorado and bound for Ireland.

Richard O’Brien and Michael Hegarty, from Rathkeale, County Limerick, were sentenced after they tried to do a deal with an undercover US Fish and Wildlife Service agent on November 13, 2010. 

The US Attorney’s Office explained to the Denver Post that the men had purchased four rhino horns from the agent for approximately $17,600.

The pair said they would not get caught transferring the illegal animal horns from the US to Ireland. They explained that they would deliver the horns along with some antiques to antique store which would then ship the contraband to Ireland.

Agents arrested the men shortly after the sale took place. The exportation or importation of rhino horns to or from the US is prohibited by U.S. law and CITES, a multilateral treaty of which the United States and the Republic of Ireland are parties.

After the arrest agents found passports, luggage, a chest of drawers, four large packing boxes and shrink wrap, which they believe was intended to pack the horns.

The pair argued in court that they had not tried to smuggle anything and their due process right were violated. Chief US District Justice Wiley Daniel rejected their claims. They eventually pleaded guilty.

There is still not word on the third suspect in the crime known as John Sullivan.

Steve Oberholtzer, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said “The illegal trafficking in rhinoceros horns fuels the dangerous poaching situations we see in Africa, and that poaching has contributed to most species of rhino being listed as endangered. We will continue to pursue investigations into the unlawful trafficking in imperiled wildlife, and we’re pleased that these men were held accountable for their crimes.”

Both of the men charged hail from the village of Rathkeale, County Limerick. The village has a populations of 1,700, half of whom are members of the Travelling community.
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