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Guilty plea in NJ in rhino horn smuggling ring

12-19-13

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A Chinese national has admitted running an international smuggling ring that specialized in rhino horns.

Zhifei Li made the admission in federal court in Newark on Thursday.

The 29-year-old resident of Shandong, China, pleaded guilty to 11 counts including smuggling and illegal wildlife trafficking. The smuggling counts each carry a 10-year maximum prison sentence.

The U.S. attorney’s office says Li paid three antique dealers in the U.S. to help him smuggle the items to China. Thirty smuggled rhino horns plus other objects made from the horns and from elephant ivory were worth about $4.5 million.

All species of the rhinoceros are protected under U.S. and international law.

Li’s sentencing is scheduled for April.