BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The nephew of an Idaho aquarium president has been convicted of obstructing justice in a case in which his uncle is charged with buying illegally obtained marine animals.
Wifredo Ferrer, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, says 20-year-old Peter C. Covino IV of Eagle, Idaho, was convicted in a jury trial on Wednesday. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on Sept. 24.
Prosecutors said Covino called a wholesale marine life business in the Florida Keys twice in February to ask the owner to destroy all text messages, emails and other evidence linking the business to Covino's uncle, Ammon Covino. The business was cooperating with federal investigators, and prosecutors said those phone calls were recorded.
Peter Covino testified in the trial that he made the calls at the behest of his uncle, according to court documents.
Ammon Covino, the president of the Idaho Aquarium, has pleaded not guilty in a separate case to charges he conspired to violate the federal Lacey Act by buying four spotted eagle rays and two lemon sharks that were harvested without a permit so he could display the animals at the aquarium. Christopher Conk, a director on the board of the aquarium, has been charged with the same crime. Both are set to stand trial in September.
The aquarium opened about two years ago in Boise and the facility has been connected to a couple of criminal cases. Conk pleaded guilty in 2011 to federal charges that he illegally shipped protective live corals to buyers around the world. His ex-wife, Deidra Davison, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor trafficking in wildlife and violating the Endangered Species Act.
After the arrests of Conk and Ammon Covino in February, aquarium staffers said changes were being made to ensure the facility's suppliers have the proper permits and paperwork for any animals brought to the aquarium.