TYLER, Texas (KETK) — Three men were indicted by a grand jury in East Texas following accusations of transporting two African elephant ivory tusks from an Oklahoma residence to Texas for sale.
According to the federal indictment, David Bartlett, 46 of Dill City, Oklahoma, called an undercover United States Fish and Wildlife special agent on Feb. 11, 2021, to “negotiate the sale of an African elephant ivory tusk.”
The same day, a man identified as Dusty Caudill allegedly posed with the African elephant tusks in Ardmore, Oklahoma, for photo and video recordings to promote the sale of the tusks. Bartlett then sent three photos and two videos to the undercover agent to negotiate the sale of the tusks, according to court documents.
The tusks were valued at over $350.
A few days later, documents say Bartlett called the undercover agent again to further negotiate the sale of the tusks, and it was agreed the tusks would be transported to Tyler, Texas, to complete the transaction.
A third man, identified as Darryl Garcia, then moved the tusks with Bartlett “from a residence into the truck of a vehicle to transport them to Tyler,” according to court documents.
The three have been charged with conspiracy to transport wildlife in interstate commerce, and Bartlett and Garcia were additionally charged with transportation of wildlife in interstate commerce and violating the Endangered Species Act.
If convicted, the possible penalty for conspiracy to transport wildlife and transportation of wildlife is a fine of $250,000 and five years in federal prison. The penalty range for violating the Endangered Species Act is a fine of $100,000 and one year in federal prison.
“Behind every piece of ivory, whether it be a full tusk or carved trinket, is a dead elephant,” the World Wildlife Fund said in a previous statement on elephants. “Poachers kill about 20,000 elephants every single year for their tusks, which are then traded illegally in the international market to eventually end up as ivory trinkets. This trade is mostly driven by demand for ivory in parts of Asia.”
According to court records, Garcia appeared in a Tyler court on June 23 and his bond was set at $50,000. Caudill appeared in court on Aug. 23 and was released without bail. Their trials are both scheduled for December unless a plea agreement is reached beforehand.
Bartlett was transported to Smith County on Wednesday from an Oklahoma jail and, according to a letter sent to the Eastern District of East Texas in July, Bartlett asked the clerk of court to “put off” his case while he underwent drug and alcohol treatment.
Bartlett had initially missed his court date in the case due to “being held on misdemeanor drug charges,” according to the letter.
“P.S. Sorry for missing my court date. I was incarcerated,” Bartlett said at the end of his letter. “But my apologies to the court.”
A court date has not yet been set for arraignment in this case.