Idaho Aquarium and its co-founders Ammon Covino and Chris Conk each pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Florida federal court to conspiring to bring illegally harvested spotted rays and lemon sharks to Boise for display at the aquarium. Sentencing for all three defendants is set for Dec. 3 in Key West.
Also on Tuesday in Florida Ammon Covino's nephew, Peter C. Covino, IV, was sentenced to 180 days home detention with electronic monitoring and two years supervised release. A Florida federal jury convicted Covino of obstruction of justice in connection with his uncle's conspiracy case.
The day after Ammon Covino and Chris Conk's arrests in Boise in February, 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, the younger Peter Covino admitted that he made the calls at the direction of Ammon Covino.
Ammon Covino and his brother, Vince, opened in 2012 a for-profit aquarium in Portland, Ore., and plan to open an aquarium in Austin, Texas, this year.
The Idaho Aquarium is a nonprofit organization founded by Covino and Conk in 2011. They are no longer on the aquarium's board of directors.
The Portland Aquarium is the subject of an Oregon Humane Society investigation; the Boise aquarium is the subject of an Idaho Humane Society and Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game investigation. Those investigations are pending.