Examples of "birdwing" butterflies, which a Commack man has been accused of...

Examples of "birdwing" butterflies, which a Commack man has been accused of smuggling. Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York

A Commack man has been indicted on charges of smuggling protected, dead butterflies — allegedly labeling shipments as “decorative wall coverings” or “Origami Paper Craft” — according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn.

The man, Charles Limmer, 75, is accused in a six-count indictment filed Tuesday of trafficking in numerous specimens of butterflies that are known as “‘birdwings’ due to their exceptional size, angular wings and birdlike flight,” the indictment says.

He will be arraigned at a later date and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, the office wrote in a news release. Charges include conspiracy to smuggle wildlife into the United States, smuggling wildlife into and out of the United States and violations of the Lacey Act’s prohibitions on trafficking in and falsely labeling wildlife.

Messages left with a number listed for Limmer and sent via LinkedIn were not returned.

It’s unclear how the allegations came to the government’s attention.

Between October 2022 and last month, Limmer is alleged to have illegally imported and exported more than $200,000 worth of shipments of dead wildlife specimens, the release said. He allegedly sold the unlawfully imported wildlife on internet platforms to buyers worldwide.

“Screw USFWS,….They are a gang of Orangutans,” he allegedly wrote in an email, a reference to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He sought to conceal the wildlife to a co-conspirator by putting it “in a little box” with “no paperwork or mention of insect specimens.” He suggested listing misleading descriptions on customs forms, the indictment claims.

There are at least two co-conspirators, who are not named in the indictment.

Last month Limmer allegedly listed for sale on the internet two birdwings he had imported from the Solomon Islands for about $479.95.

The government is seeking forfeiture of more than 1,000 butterflies, moths and other insects that are alleged to have been trafficked. It appears that most, if not all of the specimens have already been seized.

The indictment says Limmer operated a business importing, exporting, buying and selling wildlife, including protected butterflies species. He got a license in 2016 from the Fish and Wildlife Service but the license was suspended in October 2022. It was not disclosed why.

The indictment cites the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, signed by 184 parties in 1973, which was designed to ensure that international trade in plants or animals doesn't threaten their survival in the wild.

Limmer, the indictment says, did not file the required permits under the convention.

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