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January 13, 10

NEWS / Member of the Cherokee Nation Sentenced to Prison for Transporting and Selling Bear Parts

WASHINGTON—Clement Calhoun, a member of the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina, was sentenced in federal court in the Western District of North Carolina, to six months in prison for illegally transporting and selling 51 bear gall bladders, the Justice Department announced today.

He was also sentenced to serve one year of supervised release following the prison sentence. As a condition of release, he is not permitted to hunt or possess a hunting license.

Calhoun pleaded guilty on Dec. 9, 2009, to two counts charging him with transporting and selling bear parts in violation of the Lacey Act. He admitted that on various occasions during 2005, he knowingly transported 51 bear gall bladders from trust lands and sold them to non-members in violation of the Cherokee code.

Traditional Asian medicinals involve the use of many parts of the bear, with bile from the gall bladder being the most coveted part. Increasing demand for bear gall bladders may threaten the black bear population within the United States.

The conviction arose from a three-year anti-poaching investigation intended to document the unlawful take, purchase, sale and transport of ginseng and bear parts within and along the southern Appalachians by various individuals.

The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to transport or sell wildlife taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of Tribal law or regulation. Bear, whether taken alive or dead, are considered wildlife under both the Lacey Act and the Cherokee code. The Cherokee code makes it illegal for any person to sell body parts from bears to any non-member or to any person beyond the boundaries of Cherokee Indian trust lands or to any person who will remove such organ, skin or body part from Cherokee Indian trust lands.

"This operation and its resulting conviction and sentence should send a message to those illegally trafficking in animal parts," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We at the Justice Department take these crimes seriously and will continue to focus on regions and areas where this activity is suspected."

The case was prosecuted by Shennie Patel of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina. The case was investigated by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.


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