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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Hunter Indicted for Importing Trophy Parts

DALLAS -- A U.S. federal grand jury in Houston has indicted a Virginia-based hunting outfitter accused of importing trophy parts from wildlife illegally shot from helicopters in Russia.

In the case involving a prominent energy executive, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday that Robert Kern, the president of the Hunting Consortium, and the company were accused of violating the Lacey Act, which prohibits the importation of wildlife taken in violation of a foreign law.

Dan Duncan, chairman of Enterprise Products Partners, one of the United State's largest oil and gas pipeline operators, hunted with Kern in Russia and testified before the grand jury, but his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said he does not expect Duncan to be indicted.

"The indictment is based on a hunt in Russia in the summer of 2002 that was organized by Kern. During the hunt, Kern used helicopters to locate trophy-sized moose and sheep for hunters on the trip," the Department of Justice said in a statement.

"The helicopters were then used as airborne shooting platforms by the hunters. The use of helicopters in the taking of wildlife is prohibited by Russian law," it said.

It added that the trophy parts of the animals were then imported into the United States through a Houston airport. Hunting "trophy parts" are typically the heads of the animals, which are then stuffed and mounted.

Kern faces a maximum penalty of up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine, while the Hunting Consortium could be hit with a $500,000 fine.

Kern declined to comment.

"It is based on the hunt my client went on," said Rusty Hardin, Duncan's lawyer. He added that he did not expect an indictment against his client, saying it appeared the government's case was now focused on the hunting outfitter.

Russia has become a popular hunting destination for Americans with deep pockets. The global safari hunting industry is a multibillion-dollar enterprise.

The Hunting Consortium claims on its web site that it is now "the largest and most successful outfitting company in Russia."