BOISE -- Federal investigators say two employees of the Idaho Aquarium in Boise were arrested this morning for illegally harvesting marine life from Florida and bringing them back to Idaho.
According to court documents, Ammon Covino, the president of the Idaho Aquarium, and Christopher Conk, the secretary who was involved in the day-to-day purchase, transportation and payment of the specimens to be displayed, are accused of violations of the Lacey Act.
The federal Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to import,export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce, any fish or wildlife taken, possessed or transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any state.
They are accused of harvesting lemon sharks and spotted eagle rays from the Atlantic coast off southern Florida. Florida law requires a federal permit to harvest these species.
According to the indictment, between March 3, 2012, and Nov. 7, 2012, Covino and Conk conspired to acquire and purchase spotted eagle rays and lemon sharks with a fair market value in excess of $350. During that time, investigators say three spotted eagle rays and two lemon sharks were bought and flown back to Idaho to be put on display at the aquarium.
Pam Bearg with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boise says the two men have been indicted on federal charges in the Southern District of Florida. That indictment was unsealed today.
Conk and Covino appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon. Judge Candy Dale set Conk's bond at $10,000 and Covino's at $100,000. The judge used a type of bond that allows them to use a business as collateral.
The men are scheduled to appear in a Florida court on March 15.
U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson tells us that Covino and Conk face up to 20 years in prison and a million dollars in fines, if convicted.
Meanwhile, a sign posted on the Idaho Aquarium's front door states they are closed today, but patrons can come back tomorrow.