A New York collector pleads guilty to smuggling rare birdwing butterflies

NEW YORK — A Long Island man has pleaded guilty to illegally trafficking birdwing butterflies and other rare insects, according to a plea deal filed in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday.

Charles Limmer, 75, of Commack, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to smuggle wildlife into the country and agreed to pay a $30,215 penalty as well as hand over his collection of roughly 1,000 butterflies, moths and other insects. He faces up to 5 years in prison when sentenced.

Some of the dried specimens include birdwing butterflies, which are among the rarest and largest in the world.

Limmer was indicted last year on six counts related to wildlife smuggling, including violations of the federal Lacey Act’s prohibitions on falsely labeling and trafficking in wildlife. He could have received a 20-year sentence if convicted at trial.

They said Limmer circumvented U.S. laws by labeling shipments as “decorative wall coverings,” “origami paper craft” and “wall decorations.” He sold some of the dried lepidoptera specimens through an eBay account under the name “limmerleps,” pocketing tens of thousands of dollars.

Federal prosecutors said Limmer worked with overseas collaborators to smuggle some 1,000 lepidoptera, including some of the most endangered moths and butterflies in the world, even after his import/export license was suspended in Oct. 2022.

Federal law prohibits the commercial export or import of wildlife without permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Limmer’s lawyer didn’t immediately comment Wednesday.

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