Piano firm's CEO pleads guilty to Lacey Act violations
August 15, 2011 | 10:37 pm UTC

ATLANTA, GA -- The chief executive officer of A440 Pianos Inc., an Atlanta-area company that specializes in the reconditioning and sale of used pianos, recently pleaded guilty to charges of illegally shipping international protected elephant ivory into the United States.

Pascal Viellard, 49, of Liburn, GA, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act, by illegally importing pianos that contained elephant ivory.He a maximum sentence of one year in federal prison and a fine of up to $100,000. A440 Pianos faces a maximum fine of $500,000 and probation for five years.

In September 2009, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agents received information from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (“CITES”) Secretariat’s office in Geneva, Switzerland that a representative of A440 Pianos had made an inquiry regarding CITES documentation requirements. Within a few weeks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists inspected a piano shipment imported by A440 Pianos. The invoice accompanying the U.S. Customs and Border Protection entry packet declared 10 of the 1 pianos in the shipment as having “no ivory keys.” No CITES permits or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declarations accompanied the shipment. Two pianos had the keyboards removed and five pianos had the individual keys removed.

Investigators noted that two piano keyboards were located in the bottom of a crate under furniture and personal effects. The individual keys were located in a crate under a tray of marking pens. The keyboards and individual keys were positively identified to be covered with elephant ivory, which requires a permit to be imported or exported.

This case was investigated by Special Agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists and Officers, Office of Field Operations, Charleston, SC.

Read U.S. Attorney General Office's press release on the A440 Piano smuggling case.

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