Two of the top officers of the controversial Idaho Aquarium stood in a Key West, Florida, courtroom Sept. 24 and admitted to committing a series of federal crimes, including conspiracy to illegally buy, transport and sell exotic fish.
In February, federal prosecutors accused Ammon Covino, the aquarium's president, and Christopher Conk, the aquarium board's director, of illegally purchasing marine life for the Idaho facility, which remains open. A grand jury alleged that Covino and Conk purchased four spotted eagle rays and two lemon sharks for approximately $6,300, and that the fish were allegedly harvested illegally and without a permit.
Covino and Conk will both be sentenced in December where they each face up to five years behind bars and a $250,000 fine.
Also Sept. 24, 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 had previously convicted Covino of obstruction of justice in connection with his uncle's conspiracy case.
Meanwhile the the Idaho Humane Society has announced to it has launched an investigation into the operations of the aquarium, following an accusation from a former aquarium employee who said he refused to put an injured chameleon in a freezer to kill it, as his boss had asked. The employee said that when he wouldn't, the boss did it himself.