It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
"You don't need to know. You can't know." That's what Kathy Norris, a 60-year-old grandmother of eight, was told when she tried to ask court officials why, the day before, federal agents had subjected her home to a furious search.
The agents who spent half a day ransacking Mrs. Norris' longtime home in Spring, Texas, answered no questions while they emptied file cabinets, pulled books off shelves, rifled through drawers and closets, and threw the contents on the floor.
The six agents, wearing SWAT gear and carrying weapons, were with - get this- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Kathy and George Norris lived under the specter of a covert government investigation for almost six months before the government unsealed a secret indictment and revealed why the Fish and Wildlife Service had treated their family home as if it were a training base for suspected terrorists. Orchids.
That's right. Orchids.
Mr. Norris ended up spending almost two years in prison because he didn't have the proper paperwork for some of the many orchids he imported. The orchids were all legal - but Mr. Norris and the overseas shippers who had packaged the flowers had failed to properly navigate the many, often irrational, paperwork requirements the U.S. imposed when it implemented an arcane international treaty's new restrictions on trade in flowers and other flora.
The judge who sentenced Mr. Norris had some advice for him and his wife: "Life sometimes presents us with lemons." Their job was, yes, to "turn lemons into lemonade."
MIAMI -- A prominent Peruvian orchid grower was sentenced Tuesday to almost two years in federal prison for scheming to smuggle prized tropical lady slipper orchids into the United States.
The endangered Phragmipedium species of orchid is worth up to $45,500.
Manuel Arias Silva will spend one year and nine months in prison for shipping internationally protected wild orchids intermingled with nursery-raised flowers to a Texas dealer several times to feed the desires of high-end hobbyists from 1999 to last year.
U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz sentenced Arias to the low end of the federal guidelines on his guilty plea to two counts. He admitted shipping 2,050 orchids, including the endangered Phragmipedium species, worth $45,500 from Peru through Miami to suburban Houston.
“Judge Seitz did the best and the fairest she could under the circumstances,” said defense attorney Peter Raben.
The dealer, George W. Norris of Spring, Texas, also has pleaded guilty and faces sentencing Sept. 2. The investigation was based on a tip about Norris offering endangered species for sale on the Internet.
Norris instructed Arias to ship through South Florida because U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors at Miami International Airport were more lax than their counterparts in Houston, according to papers and e-mails seized in the investigation.
Arias, 70, was one of three Peruvian growers with permission to cultivate endangered and newly discovered orchids from recently deforested areas. He apologized in a letter to the judge asking for mercy and noting his “sincere” conservation efforts.
The Peruvian lady slippers, known as “phrags” in collecting circles, are considered seriously endangered in the wild and are protected by international treaty. Nursery-raised varieties can be exported with government permits.