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Japanese gets 21 months of imprisonment for butterfly smuggling

A man from Japan who admitted to smuggling rare butterflies into the United States and attempted to sell them was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison.

Hisayoshi Kojima, 57, of Kyoto, Japan also was ordered Monday to pay more than $37,000 (27,305 EUR) in fines and restitution, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns.

Kojima was arrested last August at Los Angeles International Airport as part of an undercover investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Prosecutors said he brought rare butterflies collected from all over the world into the United States and sold them to investigators posing as interested buyers.

They said he submitted a fake customs declaration describing a pair of endangered Queen Alexandra's birdwings, the largest species of butterfly in the world, as a gift of "dry butterfly" worth $30 (22.14 EUR).

The butterflies had actually been sold for $8,500 (6,273 EUR).

Kojima also tried to sell an endangered Giant Swallowtail butterfly, a species from Jamaica that appears on the country's $1,000 (738 EUR) banknote, prosecutors said.

Kojima pleaded guilty in January to 17 felony charges of violating environmental and customs laws.

All the species in the case are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Some also are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The seized butterflies were donated to the University of California, Riverside, whose entomology research museum houses a large butterfly collection.

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