In Pecos today, 47-year-old Harry George Bock, II, pleaded guilty to
his role in a scheme to illegally sell protected living rock cactus
plants, announced U.S. Attorney John F. Bash; Phillip Land, Special
Agent in Charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Office of
Law Enforcement of the Southwest Region; and, Homeland Security
Investigations (HSI) Acting Special Agent in Charge Erik P. Breitzke, El
Appearing before U.S Magistrate Judge David Fannin, Bock pleaded
guilty to one count of mislabeled exports. According to court records,
from May 2017 to August 2018, Bock conspired with others in a scheme
whereby they submitted false identification of actual living rock cacti (Ariocarpus fissuratus),
a protected species, with the intent to export and sell the plants for
financial gain. On May 14, 2018, 41 living rock cacti shipped by Bock
were seized by authorities at the International Mail Facility in
In 2012, Texas-based FWS Special Agents uncovered a substantial
trafficking organization smuggling thousands of protected living rock
cactus from the Big Bend region of Western Texas. Cooperative
investigative work led to the execution of six residential search
warrants served mostly in remote areas of far southwest Texas where the
living rock cacti naturally occur. The living rock cacti were
advertised through internet sales and mostly consummated with end
purchasers from Europe and Asia. Several parcels containing the live
cacti were intercepted at international mail facilities and were found
to be falsely labeled which substantiated felony charges to the sellers.
“When you mess with protected Texas cacti, you’re messing with Texas.
My office will continue to work with our law-enforcement partners to
protect our State’s natural heritage,” stated U.S. Attorney Bash.
The living rock cacti are afforded protection through the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES) and listed as Appendix I protected plant species that prohibit
foreign commerce. The CITES Appendix I listing categories the species
as threatened with extinction and limits international movements to
scientific research and zoological display.
Bock remains on bond pending formal sentencing. No sentencing date
has been scheduled. Five other individuals have been prosecuted and
sentenced in relation to this scheme.
“Breaking up international and domestic smuggling rings that target
imperiled plants and animals is an important part of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service’s work,” said FWS Special Agent in Charge Land. “This
case demonstrates how cooperation between enforcement agencies can
achieve strong results. We thank our partners at the National Park
Service, Department of Homeland Security, Texas Parks and Wildlife
Department, the U.S. Postal Service, and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture for their help with this case.”
“Individuals who deal in protected native plants are not only doing
damage to the environment, but they are stealing from the American
people,” said HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Breitzke. “HSI will
continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and
prosecute these criminals to ensure the protection of these West Texas
Thousands of live cacti seized by law enforcement during this
investigation were cared for and donated to non-profit entities through
assistance from the Sul Ross State University.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Miller, Jr., is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.