State wildlife-trafficking initiative: First charges filed

SEATTLE (AP) — Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed the first-ever charges under the Washington Animal Trafficking Act, which became law more than three years ago when voters approved Initiative 1401.

The Seattle Times reports Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife detectives searched the web, sorted through allegedly coded language and conducted an undercover sting to investigate two separate cases, according to probable-cause documents.

Ferguson on Tuesday charged Donald Frank Rooney, in Snohomish County Superior Court, and Yunhua Chen, in King County Superior Court, each with one felony count of unlawful trafficking. Both are accused of selling elephant ivory, a practice the initiative banned.

Ferguson says it took law-enforcement officials time to figure out exactly how to investigate and prosecute these new crimes, but he thinks Washington state can be a model for others.

Neither Rooney nor Chen responded to texts or calls to phones listed in their names.