Li was arrested last year as part of sting operation, "Operation Crash," coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to root out rhino horn trafficking in the U.S.
In delivering the sentence, one of the lengthiest to be handed down for smuggling of animal parts, Judge Esther Salas noted the devastation being wrought on African wildlife by Li and his accomplices. Last year, more than 1,000 rhinos were slaughtered for their horns in South Africa alone, up from only six in 2000.
"Wild populations of rhinos are being slaughtered at appalling rates due to the greed and indifference of criminals like Li and his accomplices," said USFWS director Dan Ashe. "The sentence handed down today serves notice to other organized trafficking and poaching rings that their crimes will not go unpunished."