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Two foreign nationals from the Democratic Republic of Congo have pleaded guilty in federal court in Seattle for acting as middle men in a smuggling ring that brought illegal ivory, rhinoceros horn and pangolin scales into the U.S.
Herdade Lokua, 24, and Jospin Mujangi, 32, of Kinshasa, Congo, pleaded guilty to two counts of an 11-count indictment alleging they worked with a middle man to facilitate shipments of poached items into Seattle, the Seattle Times reported.
Sentencing is set for Nov. 1. Both men face up to five years in prison, possible fines of up to $250,000 and deportation from the U.S., according to a plea agreement.
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Officials say the men acknowledged that from November 2019 through June 2021, they shipped 49 pounds (22 kilograms) of ivory from Kinshasa, arranging for the tusks to be cut into smaller pieces, painted black, and labeled as imported wood.
In June 2021, they brought in rhino horns and discussed a shipment of ivory and pangolin scales, the Justice Department said.
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The men admitted they traveled from Congo to Seattle in November 2021 to meet in Edmonds with prospective buyers who were actually undercover federal agents. They were arrested after the meeting and indicted by a Seattle grand jury.