Ammon Covino, the co-owner of the Portland Aquarium who in February was charged with illegally harvesting marine species from Florida waters, has plead not guilty at his arraignment in a federal court in Florida. Covino, who co-owns the Portland Aquarium and is president of the Idaho Aquarium, was arrested in Boise with his partner Christopher Conk for allegedly purchasing protected wildlife that came from Florida, and if convicted, each faces up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines, according to KTVB.com.
The duo apparently contracted with a seller of spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari), which is on the IUCN Red List as a near threatened species and lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris), and received shipments of these animals at the aquarium. According to OregonLive, Covino posted $100,000 bond but was then sent back into custody after prosecutors alleged that he had tried to contact the business, through his nephew, to destroy documents that were pertinent to the case. Covino and his business partner Conk have been charged with a single count of conspiracy and three counts of illegal purchase of wildlife, the paper reported. Both Covino and Conk could face five years in prison and fined up to $250,000 for each count if convicted.
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