George Norris update

  • Thread starter Eric Muehlbauer
  • Start date
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Eric Muehlbauer

Just heard from George. He's scheduled to go back to jail on the 10th. The situation seems a little better now...with time off for his health and good behavior, he should not have to serve more than 53 days, then he'll go to a halfway house. What appears at least likely now, is that due to the above and the nature of his "crimes", he will probably just be sentenced to a halfway house to complete his sentence..basically, that translates into house arrest. Hope things work out well for him...Take care, Eric
Thanks for the update. It's good to hear that there may be a remotely 'happy' ending.

I'm still trying to figure out what exactly happened, though.
And what happened according to George:

Howdy Buckeroos,

Well, here's the story and pay attention, you might be next!

Tuesday morning about 10 am, 6 armed agents of our government served me with a search warrant and proceeded to ransack my house, special emphasis on my office. Seems this is an investigation into a possible violation of the Lacey Act. In looking up the Lacey Act, I find that it pertains to the Importation or Shipment of Injurious Mammels, Birds, Fish (including mollusks and crustacea) Amphinia and Reptiles.
It outlines the penalties for anyone engaged in shipping to the United States, Herpestes auropunctatus which seems to be a certain species of Mongoose. It also prohibits trade to the U.S. of any wild animals, birds, fish, mollusks, crustacae, amphibians, reptiles or their offspring or eggs of anything the Secretary of the Interior may prescribe as injurious to humans, agriculture, horticulture, forestry or wildlife resources of the U.S. It further goes on to repeal the Black Bass Act of 1900????????

Also included now by the Lacey Act Amendment of 1981, they have vaguely added "plants", not anything specific like maybe orchids or cactus but just "plants".

The Feds or as I like to call them, The Plant Gestapo seems to think something was wrong with the Phrags. I sold from Peru in August even though they are listed as I-D on the CITES from that country and legally qualified for this designation by the government of Peru. The documents were passed by U.S. Customs and satisfied the USDA and those plants were inspected and sent on to me as released by the government.

Somehow the Plant Gestapo was able to convince a U.S. Federal Magistrate by taking parts of emails out of context, to issue a search warrant. After 3 hours and 45 minutes, they boxed up 20 big cartons of all my office stuff, emails, correspondence, files, catalogs, floppies, fishing pictures and personal stuff, took my CPU from my computer and left. They read me my Miranda Rights, searched my greenhouse and said I was not being charged with anything.........yet!

So I am now without computer with any addresses or business information and can not contact my customers and friends except through this Forum. I am still kicking and apparently going to take a months vacation from business whether I like it or not. It will be at least that long before I get my computer back as it is on it's way to a forensics lab in Oregon to be nuked. Let me assure y'all that they are just fishing for something...anything and they won't find nuttin.

I have always obeyed the laws, my plants are all legal and they won't find anything except some really terrible jokes on my computer.
Please bear with me during this period. We are getting plants in but have no mailing list to send price lists out to so we will just grow them out. I have email now on Kathy's computer but can only answer emails as I have no one's address. The "FREE THE OLD WRANGLER DEFENCE FUND" is not set up yet but we'll let you know later. Please feel free to write me and ask questions, I have nothing to hide and I think now the Feds know that.

Good growing to you all and watch who you let in your house.
Zach said:
I'm still trying to figure out what exactly happened, though.

Well, this is what happened to the best of my knowledge. I'm sure there are other people on this forum who know more than I do, so correct me if I'm wrong........George Norris was an orchid importer based in Texas....mostly dealt with South American orchids. He told one of his importers, Arias, I think? (I get the Peruvian and Equadorean growers confused.....) to ship an order, including phrags, to Miami rather than Houston because he felt customs were more lax there, and the plants would be processed more quickly...unfortunately, he also told the dealer to label the phrags as Maxillarias. So, he and the other guy were arrested as orchid smugglers, illegally bringing in loads of CITES banned plants. This was coming right after all the kovachii publicity. However, none of George's plants were illegal in themselves...they were propagated, common phrags, mostly pearcei. They were simply brought in illegally. The other guy went back to S.America. George went on trial,where the prosecution presented him as a predatory smuggler dealing in rare endangered plants. His defense didn't know too much. He was sentenced to 17 months in jail...65 years old, poor health, no prior record. He was released last year to await his appeals...which he lost, leaving him with the remainder of his sentence to still be served. He doesn't deny his crime, nor does he feel that he shouldn't be punished...but 17 months in jail??? A couple of factors went into that sentence, other than post-Kovachii CITES frenzy. George was cantankerous, and loved to play the vulgar, dumb, cowboy redneck. He also p'd a lot of people off...including too many of the wrong people. They were already investigating him, waiting for a chance to nail him on something. They also expected him to make a deal, and offer any info that he had about who really might be smuggling in CITES banned plants..which he refused to do. Its too bad...while I have never gotten to know George in person, over the years I had corresponded with him a lot, and saw that behind all the bluster and obnoxiousness was a warm, kindhearted person. Granted, we were as far apart politically as people can be, but we always got along well, agreeing to disagree. As a seller, he couldn't have been more honest...reasonable prices, low shipping, and he insisted on sending plants first before didn't like the plant, or it was damaged, just knock it off the bill. Hope this brings everyone up to date...Take care, Eric
wow, and everyone wonders how our government could let something like 9/11 happen.......
Thanks Heather and Eric. That cleared a lot of it up for me. I had never known what exactly was going on with the 'mislabeled plants.'
I hate it when reporters say "rare endangered plants", when many of these plants are not endangered at all.... I don't know him, but I wish they would just free him from jail, I don't think any punishment is required
I got an email from George saying that he has to report back to jail on Wednesday. He has to serve the remaining 53 days. I don't think it's fair for them to expect him to go back when he's already done enough time. Just my two cents. For anyone that has his email, I'm sure Kathy would appreciate a letter or two once in awhile. She just had knee surgery and would probably benefit from a friendly hello.
Thanks for the update.....I was on his mailing list, but I never ordered anything.