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Woman accused of selling monkey on Craigslist sentenced to ‘cage’ of her own, feds say

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
A Texas woman will serve jail time for illegally selling exotic and protected species on Craigslist last year, federal officials said.

The 21-year-old Katy resident was sentenced on March 18 to 15 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for selling wildlife in violation of the Lacey Act, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Texas.

The Lacey Act “combats trafficking of illegally taken wildlife, fish, or plants,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 2023, authorities discovered several Craigslist posts listing exotic birds for sale, including keel-billed toucans and yellow-headed amazon parrots that are both federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani.

A cell phone number on the posts helped law enforcement identify the seller, authorities said.

Between July 28 and Aug. 1, undercover agents purchased two toucans for $3,000 and a Mexican spider monkey for $8,500 from the seller, feds said.

Relatives of the seller, including her sister and mother, transported the animals, though officials said the sales were arranged by the 21-year-old.

“Those who traffic in infant spider monkeys shoot the mothers first and then pull the infants from their mother’s dead bodies before throwing them into cages for transport,” Hamdani said.

“(Her) actions helped sustain an illicit market that encouraged the needless death and suffering of endangered animals,” he added. “Thankfully, now she will have to spend time in a cage of her making — a prison cell.”

Officials said the animals were transferred to zoos in Texas.

In a separate incident on March 21, 2022, the woman smuggled a spider monkey into the U.S. via the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, feds say.

During a checkpoint, immigration officials discovered the monkey in a wooden box, and instead of complying with additional inspection instructions, the woman fled law enforcement, according to officials.

Agents saw advertisements for the sale of the monkey online later that day.

The woman turned herself in and pleaded guilty to smuggling wildlife into the U.S. without declaring it and fleeing an immigration checkpoint, officials said.

She was sentenced to two years of supervised release, feds say.

“The monkey was ultimately recovered and placed with an animal shelter in the Central Florida area,” according to a Nov. 1, 2022, news release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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