Docs: Idaho Aquarium conspired to illegally harvest animals

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - The owners of the Idaho Aquarium have been indicted by the federal government for allegedly conspiring to illegally harvest marine animals in Florida and then bring them to Boise.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Boise has confirmed that Ammon Covino and Chris Conk, listed as directors on the company website, were indicted and arrested Thursday.

On the Idaho Aquarium Facebook posted the following message.

"Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we are closed this morning. We hope to be open later this afternoon, and we will most definitely be open tomorrow. We apologize for any inconvenience and are working as quickly as we can to open back up."

The court documents allege that the defendants negotiated for the purchase of illegally harvesting spotted eagle rays and lemon sharks from an individual in Florida. | Photos of the Aquarium

The government states that Covino sought to arrange the eagle rays via text message and was quoted a price of $1,250 per ray March 3. Covino was told that a special permit was required and that it would take some time to secure.

The documents allege that on April 23, Covino sent a text message saying he was unable to obtain the permit and asked whether it was possible he could "sneak" the rays to him in Idaho.

In a phone conversation with the owner of the animals in Florida, court documents allege, Covino responded ... "just start doing it...who gives a sh**, man."

Government officials also say the two directors, despite having the valid permits, wanted to purchase the lemon sharks "on the down low." Update: Aquarium opens despite owner's indictment

Christopher Conk pleaded guilty in 2011 to illegally shipping protected coral to buyers around the world. He was charged with smuggling, trafficking wildlife and violating the endangered species act.

The directors also own a for-profit aquarium in Portland. Our sister station KATU spoke with Covino's brother Vince who commented on the situation.

"I've heard from secondhand sources that the person who caught or somehow acquired the lemon sharks off of the coast of Florida acquired them illegally," Vince Covino said. "I have yet to find out if Ammon was aware of that I just don't know he's going to work tomorrow it'll be open he'll be there and he will be running it. "