U.S. Department of Justice|
Debra W. Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California
United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 16, 2005
For Information, Contact Public Affairs|
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947
Los Angeles, CA - A Moorpark couple were arrested this morning on federal charges related to their possession of exotic cats, including a Siberian tiger that escaped during a move from San Diego County and terrorized eastern Ventura County for almost four weeks before it was killed last month.
Gert Abby Hedengran, 57, and his wife, Roena Emma Hedengran, 53, were arrested this morning by special agents from U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General, wardens with the California Department of Fish and Game and special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Hedengrans operate a non-profit animal sanctuary and exhibition for exotic cats, including lions and tigers. In late January, they transferred their cats from a Temecula facility to their new residence and facility in Moorpark. During the move, a Siberian lynx and an adult male Siberian tiger escaped from the new facility in Moorpark. After approximately four weeks on the loose, the tiger was shot and killed on February 23 in a Moorpark residential neighborhood near an elementary school and public park.
Between February 3 and 25, the Hedengrans repeatedly misled and obstructed state and federal law enforcement officers who were attempting to track down and capture the tiger. On February 16, Gert Hedengran also destroyed tiger prints in an effort to obstruct and hinder the federal tracking efforts.
Gert Hedengran was named in a criminal complaint filed today with making false statements to the Agriculture Department, submitting false records to the Agriculture Department, destroying evidence and three counts of obstruction of justice. The six charges carry a maximum possible penalty of 60 years in federal prison.
Rowena Hedengran was named in a separate criminal complaint with one count of obstruction of justice and witness tampering. That charge carries a maximum possible penalty of 10 years in federal prison.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The Hedengrans are expected to make their initial court appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
This investigation was conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Animal Care; the California Department of Fish and Game; and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Release No. 05-046
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