SEATTLE — Two foreign nationals from the Democratic Republic of Congo who pleaded guilty in federal court in Seattle to participating in a smuggling ring that brought illegal ivory, rhinoceros horn and pangolin scales into the U.S. have been sentenced.
Herdade Lokua was sentenced to 20 months and Jospin Mujangi was sentenced to 14 months in prison on Tuesday, the Justice Department said.
They both in July 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 court determined Lokua was the organizer of a trafficking operation involving more than five other co-conspirators whose goal was to ship a cargo container full of elephant ivory, white rhinoceros horn and pangolin scales to Seattle. Mujangi helped package the wildlife products and handled the financial details to process the payment.
Officials said 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.
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.