A New York man was charged by federal prosecutors for allegedly smuggling over $200,000 worth of deceased, protected butterflies, including exceptionally rare ones known as birdwings, into and out of the United States through online retailers like eBay and Etsy.
In a press release, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn said that 75-year-old Charles Limmer allegedly trafficked "unlawfully imported wildlife on Internet platforms" between October 2022 and September 2023.
The six-count indictment against Limmer accuses him of working with overseas collaborators to smuggle some 1,000 insects, including some of the rarest and most endangered moths and butterflies in the world.
Prosecutors said that Limmer concealed his scheme by directing his co-conspirators to label the shipments of the protected butterflies as "decorative wall coverings," "origami paper craft" and "wall decorations."
The indictment noted that Limmer expressed contempt for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, saying, "Screw USFWS… They are a gang of Orangutans."
Federal law prohibits the commercial export or import of wildlife without permission from the USFWS. Additional authorization would need to be secured for endangered species, as part of an international partnership to protect wildlife from trafficking.
An eBay page of a seller going by "limmerleps" shows the account had made more than 4,600 sales on the shopping platform, many of the most recent sales were moths and butterflies. There were two birdwing specimens currently on sale and two were sold over the past year, according to the website.
An Etsy page connected to a seller going by the name "Limmer" had four ads for birdwings still advertised on Wednesday, including featuring a collection of five specimens with an asking price of $133.
The 75-year-old's indictment also seeks to force Limmer to give up his collection of over 1,000 butterflies, moths and other insects that he allegedly illegally trafficked.
If convicted of smuggling, Limmer faces up to 20 years in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.