Alexander Bic, 25, is charged with violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act in connection with the alleged attempt to import Ornithoptera -- or birdwing -- butterflies into the United States. The charge carries a possible federal prison sentence of up to 20 years, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana M. Kwok.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Victor B. Kenton set a June 16 trial date, which is expected to be postponed.
The vividly colored specimens were found by customs officers on April 7 at LAX, as Bic -- an Irvine native -- and his wife were returning from a trip to Japan, according to documents filed in Los Angeles federal court. Bic's wife was not charged.
The dried and folded 5-inch butterflies from New Guinea were allegedly found among eight boxes of dead insects discovered in Bic's carry-on and checked baggage, the document states.
Bic operates an Internet mail-order business in which he sells pinned and framed insect specimens to customers throughout the world.
The endangered birdwing species sells for upward of $100, the prosecutor said.
"There are certainly enough collectors (of dried insects) to support an eBay business,'' Kwok told City News Service.
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