PECOS, Texas - An El Paso man has pled guilty to his role in a scheme to illegally sell protected living rock cactus plants.
47-year-old Harry George Bock II pled guilty to one count of mislabeled exports.
According to court documents, from May 2017 to August 2018, Bock conspired with others in a scheme where they submitted false identification of actual living rock cacti (Ariocarpus fissuratus), a protected species, with the intent to export and sell the plants for financial gain.
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On May 14, 2018, 41 living rock cacti shipped by Bock were seized by authorities at the International Mail Facility in Chicago, IL.
In 2012, Texas-based FWS Special Agents uncovered a substantial trafficking organization smuggling thousands of protected living rock cactus from the Big Bend region of Western Texas.
According to a release from the US Attorney's office, cooperative investigative work led to the execution of six residential search warrants served mostly in remote areas of far southwest Texas where the living rock cacti naturally occur. The cacti were advertised through internet sales and most were purchased by people in Europe and Asia.
Several parcels containing the live cacti were intercepted at international mail facilities and were found to be falsely labeled which substantiated felony charges to the sellers.
The living rock cacti are afforded protection through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and listed as Appendix I protected plant species that prohibit foreign commerce. The listing categories the species as threatened with extinction and limits international movements to scientific research and zoological display.
Bock remains on bond pending formal sentencing. No sentencing date has been scheduled. Five other individuals have been prosecuted and sentenced in relation to this scheme.