News and Press Releases

WILDLIFE SMUGGLERS ARRESTED

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 30, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Eddie McKissick, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), Office of Law Enforcement, Miami Office, and Dave Hubbard, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, San Antonio Office, announced today that an indictment was unsealed late last week as a result of the arrest of Elias Garcia Garcia, 52, and Maria Angela Plancarte, 52, both of La Feria, Texas, as they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States at Brownsville, Texas. The defendants appeared before a United States Magistrate Judge in Texas and were ordered detained pending their removal to the Southern District of Florida to face charges related to the interstate sale of jaguar skins illegally entered into the United States from Mexico, in violation of the Endangered Species Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 1538(a)(1) and 1540(b)(1), and the federal conspiracy statute, Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.

According to the allegations in the indictment and statements in court, Garcia and Plancarte offered to sell jaguar skins to potential customers in person in Texas and by electronic means elsewhere. Additionally, the defendants made repeated road trips to South Florida, carrying jaguar skins to sell to Florida customers. On November 9, 2010, Garcia and Plancarte sold 2 jaguar pelts to undercover FWS agents in Texas for $3,000 cash and offered additional future sales of up to 10 jaguar skins. Garcia and Plancarte are also charged with a second sale of jaguar skins to undercover FWS agents in Homestead, Florida, resulting in a payment of $4,000 in cash, representing the purchase price of $3,000 and an additional $1,000 as a deposit against the future sale of up to 10 jaguar skins.

Further court proceedings will be scheduled in U.S. District Court in Miami, once the defendants arrive from Texas. The case is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Joan A. Lenard. If convicted, the defendants each face a possible term of imprisonment of up to five years in jail on the conspiracy count, and up to one year on the two counts charging violations of the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act, Title 16, United States Code, Section 1531, et seq., and regulations promulgated thereunder, makes it unlawful among other things, to deliver, carry, transport, ship, sell, or offer for sale any species of wildlife, or the dead body or parts thereof, listed under Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 17.11, and thus protected under the Act. The jaguar (Panthera onca) is listed as an “Endangered Species” under the Act, and subject to the prohibitions appearing in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 17.21.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which resulted in the criminal charges in this matter. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.

An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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