Targeted raids around the country last weekend produced 20 sawed-off rhinoceros horns seized mostly from the Garden Grove home and Westminster business of an importer-exporter accused of running an international smuggling ring, authorities say.
And 49-year-old Jimmy Kha kept it all in the family, relying on his son and girlfriend to help pull off the enterprise, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Now he, his 26-year-old son Felix Kha and girlfriend Mai Nguyen, 41, of Highland, each face four counts of rhino horn trafficking in violation of federal laws protecting rare and endangered species. The Khas were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport.
Besides the horns, federal agents confiscated diamonds, Rolex watches, gold bars worth $1 million and more than $1 million in cash in the raids that also included Kha's safe-deposit boxes.
More than 150 agents participated in sweeps in dozens of states over the weekend to cap an 18-month investigation, which was launched after Wade Steffen of Hico, Texas, and his wife and mother were found with $337,000 in their luggage at Long Beach Airport. Wildlife officials went on to track about 18 shipments of rhino horns from the Steffen family and the owner of a Missouri auction house that trades in live and stuffed exotic animals.
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According to TRAFFIC, a World Wildlife Fund program that monitors the trading of wildlife, most rhino horns ends up in Vietnam or China, where it is believed they can cure cancer, something medical science has never confirmed.