Two Treasure Valley men slated to plead guilty to illegally purchasing Florida marine life

csewell@idahostatesman.comAugust 22, 2013 

Two Treasure Valley men accused of illegally purchasing Florida marine life plan to plead guilty to the federal charges.

Ammon Covino, 39, of Meridian and Chris Conk, 40, of Middleton, initially pleaded not guilty following their February arrest on a Florida warrant. A trial was slated for Sept. 23 in Key West.

According to court documents filed Thursday, Covino and Conk are scheduled to change their pleas on Sept. 24.

Also in September, Covino's nephew, Peter C. Covino IV, will be sentenced following a Florida federal jury conviction of obstruction of justice.

Covino and Conk, who co-founded the Idaho Aquarium in Boise, were arrested in Boise on Feb. 21 and charged with conspiracy and unlawful sale or purchase of marine animals. They are accused in Florida of buying four eagle rays and two lemon sharks without proper permits and transporting them to the Idaho Aquarium.

The day after the arrests, federal agents listened to two recorded telephone calls placed to a Florida business from which Covino and Conk are accused of illegally purchasing marine life and shipping it to Idaho.

The caller asked the Florida businessman to cancel a marine life shipment to Boise, refund the credit card and to erase all emails, text messages and other evidence associated with Ammon Covino, according to court documents and testimony.

Federal agents identified the caller as Peter C. Covino, the son of Ammon Covino's brother, Peter C. Covino III.

During his trial testimony, Peter Covino admitted that he made the calls at the direction of Ammon Covino.

Peter Covino faces a sentence of up to 20 years, a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release of up to three years. His sentencing is set for Sept. 19.

In June, the court granted Ammon Covino permission to temporarily move to Austin, Texas, where he and his brother, Vince, are opening an aquarium. The brothers opened an aquarium in December near Portland. The Oregon Humane Society is investigating reports that more than 200 of the aquarium's marine animals died in three-month period earlier this year.

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