That NYC cab driver turned billionaire has pleaded guilty to charges that he violated the Endangered Species Act by attempting to import 29 rare dead animals into the US aboard his yacht. You may recall Tamir Sapir as the Georgian man who rose from immigrant hack to Russian oil and real estate tycoon, ultimately buying the city's most expensive townhouse across from the Metropolitan Museum for $40 million in 2006. But Florida Customs officers who peered inside his yacht in 2007 know him better as a dealer in dead endangered wildlife.
According to the Post, Fish and Wildlife Service investigators confiscated the following items: Barstools upholstered with python and anaconda skins, seven carved elephant tusks, hides of jaguars, tigers and zebras, a fully stuffed and mounted lion, a cigarette holder made from python skin, a zebra-skin-lined children's bed, and a cigar box wrapped in elephant hide. Speaking to reporters, US District Attorney Alex Acosta said, "Personally, I think these items are rather creepy items. And I would not want them in my house, but some people like them and are willing to buy them. The reason laws exist is because there is a market."
Despite the guilty plea, Sapir's attorney insists his client wasn't trying to smuggle the remains of endangered species into the country; they were just "part of the decor" of Sapir's "home away from home... It was just a failure to have to the proper documentation. These are ivory pieces that pre-date the [legal] acts. They are antiques. As far as the skins are concerned, these are skins that were legally purchased and they are old. He wasn't importing or exporting these items." Sapir, currently the 522nd richest man in the world with a fortune of $1.4 billion, will pay $150,000 fines.