Beverly Hills Auctioneer, Reality TV Star Charged in Rhino Horn Smuggling Scheme - NBC New York

Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Beverly Hills Auctioneer, Reality TV Star Charged in Rhino Horn Smuggling Scheme

Rhino horns are worth more per pound than gold because of high demand in Asia and scarcity of supply, officials say

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Beverly Hills Auctioneer, Reality TV Star Charged in Rhino Horn Smuggling Scheme
    Getty Images
    FILE PHOTO: Rhino horn seized in 2013 probe

    What to Know

    • Rhino horns are worth more per pound than gold because of high demand in Asia and scarcity of supply, officials say

    • The trade has been restricted since 1976 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

    • The indictment stems from an ongoing nationwide crackdown on illegal trafficking in rhino horns and other wildlife crimes

    A Beverly Hills auctioneer and star of a short-lived reality TV show has been indicted in Manhattan for allegedly conspiring to smuggle rhinoceros horns in a years-long trafficking scheme, prosecutors said Wednesday. 

    Jacob Chait, the Director of the natural history department and head of acquisitions at I.M. Chait Gallery/Auctioneers, appeared in court Tuesday to face the charge in violation of the Lacey Act, a 1900 law that bans illegal wildlife trafficking. It wasn't immediately clear if Chait, who played himself in six episodes of the 2012 Discovery series "Final Offer," entered a plea. 

    A rhinoceros horn is worth more per pound than gold due to the high demand in Asia and increasing scarcity of supply, officials say. The trade has been restricted since 1976 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by over 180 countries around the world. 

    According to the indictment, the 34-year-old Chait and his co-conspirators allegedly were involved in the dealing, or attempted dealing, of at least 15 rhinocerous horns worth about $2.4 million between 2009 and 2012. In one case, Chait allegedly smuggled two endangered black rhino horns to China in his luggage. 

    "Rhinoceros have no known predators other than humans, and yet, driven by the illegal trade in their horns, literally worth more than their weight in gold in the black market, rhinoceros are on their way to extinction," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. 

    The indictment stems from an ongoing nationwide crackdown by the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Justice on illegal trafficking in rhino horns and other wildlife crimes. 

    The single count Chait faces carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The name of his attorney wasn't immediately available.

    Get the latest from NBC 4 New York anywhere, anytime