Remember my post of November 12th (“A rat among the orchids”)?
“After a yearlong investigation, a Tampa grand jury indicted James Michael Kovach on charges of smuggling and illegally possessing a rare Peruvian orchid now named for him: Phragmipedium kovachii.
If convicted, Kovach could face up to six years in prison and fines of up to $350,000.”
Here’s the full text of the article:
Jury indicts Virginia nursery owner for alleged orchid smuggling”.
One of the most prized orchid discoveries in years has led to a federal smuggling indictment of the Virginia nursery owner who brought the flower into Florida.
After a yearlong investigation, a Tampa grand jury indicted James Michael Kovach on charges of smuggling and illegally possessing a rare Peruvian orchid now named for him: Phragmipedium kovachii.
Kovach, 48, has not been taken into custody. His mentor, Miami orchid expert Lee Moore, said Kovach was unaware of the Nov. 19 indictment. A woman who answered the phone Thursday at Kovach’s home in Goldvein, Va., declined to comment and hung up.
If convicted, Kovach could face up to six years in prison and fines of up to $350,000.
The indictment against Kovach marks the first criminal charges in the investigation, launched soon after Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota trumpeted Kovach’s find in June 2002.
“It’s a rich, brilliant red purple. Big, round, well-shaped – it apparently has no odor – and one flower per stem seems to be the rule,” the gardens’ curator described the new find at the time.
The indictment said Kovach, transported, concealed and sold one or more protected orchid specimens, specifically of the genus Phragmipedium, commonly known as Tropical lady’s slipper orchids. Those species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Although the indictment says Kovach’s documents did not include the required permits for endangered plants, former Selby employee John Atwood said, “we were satisfied his paperwork was in order.”
According to an account Kovach wrote for an orchid collector newsletter, he spotted the new species at a roadside stand at a crossroads called El Progresso, near Myombomba in northern Peru.
Moore called it “the Holy Grail of orchids.” He said he advised Kovach to take the discovery to Selby without the special permits required to ship rare and endangered flowers across international borders.
Kovach flew to Miami with the orchid in his luggage and drove to Sarasota on June 5, 2002. There, according to the indictment, Selby employees “accepted one or more” specimens from Kovach and agreed to name it for him.
Information from: St. Petersburg Times, http://www.sptimes.com