Ammon Covino and his nephew, Peter Covino IV, were arrested Tuesday. Ammon Covino is charged with violating conditions of his pre-trial release on a Florida indictment. His nephew is charged with obstruction of justice.
Idaho Aquarium co-founders Ammon Covino, 39, of Meridian, and Chris Conk, 40, of Middleton, were arrested on Feb. 21 and charged in Boise federal court with illegally purchasing Florida marine life for captive display at the aquarium. Covino was released that day on a $100,000 bond.
The next day, federal agents listened to two recorded telephone calls that took place the night of Feb. 21. The calls were placed to a Florida marine life business from which Covino and Conk are accused illegally purchasing marine life and shipping to Idaho. The caller asked an individual at the business to cancel a marine life shipment to Boise and to erase all emails, text messages and other evidence associated with Ammon Covino.
Federal agents identified the caller as Peter Covino IV, 20, of Star, the son of Ammon Covinos brother, Peter Covino III. Agents also determined Ammon Covino asked his nephew to make the calls.
A Florida judge on Monday issued an arrest warrant for Peter Covino IV for obstruction of justice. Covino made his initial appearance Wednesday morning. He is scheduled to appear in Florida federal court on March 15. The obstruction of justice charge is punishable by up to twenty years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release.
Ammon Covino also was arrested Tuesday. As a condition of his Feb. 21 release, the judge ordered Covino not to commit any new federal, state or local crimes. Covino is due back in court on Friday to determine if his bond should be revoked and he should be detained pending transfer to the Southern District of Florida to face charges stemming from the Nov. 8 indictment.
A Florida grand jury indicted Covino and Conk with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and violating the Lacey Act by purchasing Florida protected marine life in interstate commerce. The four-count indictment alleges that Covino and Conk purchased four spotted eagle rays and two lemon sharks for approximately $6,300. The marine wildlife were allegedly harvested illegally and without a permit.
Covino and Conk are each charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of illegal purchase and sale of fish/wildlife. Each count is punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release.
In a separate case in December 2011, Conk pleaded guilty to illegally shipping protected coral from his Middleton home. In March 2012, Conk was sentenced to two years federal probation.