Tampa man sentenced to 1 year in federal prison for collecting endangered animal skulls, tusks

Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
African elephants. Credit: Pixabay

A Tampa man has been sentenced to federal prison for trafficking in the bones and tusks of endangered species and illegally possessing firearms.

Steven Phillip Griffin II, 36, from Palm Harbor, received a sentence of 12 months and 1 day in federal prison, to be followed by 2 years of supervised release, for receiving and transporting endangered species in violation of the Endangered Species Act and for possessing firearms and ammunition as a convicted felon. The court also ordered Griffin to forfeit two pairs of southern white rhinoceros horns, four African elephant ivory tusks, one African lion skull, three leopard skulls, 10 firearms and ammunition.

Griffin had pleaded guilty on Nov. 10, 2020.

According to the plea agreement, Griffin communicated with a United States Fish & Wildlife Service – Office of Law Enforcement undercover special agent for more than two years to negotiate the sale and purchase of endangered and threatened wildlife. Griffin repeatedly stated throughout that he collects skulls, full skeletons and other parts of a variety of endangered and/or threatened wildlife such as lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, rhinos and elephants. Griffin also sent numerous photographs of his personal collection, as well as items on his wish list, to the undercover agent via text message. In May 2019, Griffin drove to Texas, met with undercover agents, purchased and illegally transported two Southern White rhino horns, four elephant ivory tusks, one African lion skull, and three leopard skulls to Palm Harbor, Florida. Griffin paid the undercover agent $9,750 in cash for the animal parts.

Agents later searched Griffin’s residence and seized a variety of endangered and/or threatened animal parts, firearms and ammunition. Griffin has been previously convicted of a felony and knew he was not allowed to possess a firearm or ammunition due to his prior conviction.

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