FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEENR
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1999(202) 514-2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
TWO SENTENCED FOR ILLEGALLY TRAFFICKING IN WEST INDIES TORTOISES
AND RARE AND ENDANGERED IGUANAS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two South Florida men were sentenced today for their roles in illegally trafficking rare reptiles protected under domestic and international law. U.S. District Judge Jose Gonzalez in Fort Lauderdale sentenced Dwayne Cunningham to 14 months incarceration, two years supervised release, and Robert Lawracy to two years incarceration and two years supervised release.
Cunningham and Lawracy were found guilty in May, 1999 of conspiring with one another to violate the Lacey Act, the federal smuggling statue, and the international treaty known as CITES, (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) which is enforced through the federal Endangered Species Act.
"Trafficking in rare species threatens our environment," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We will take whatever steps we can here and abroad to stop the black market in these protected species."
The defendants poached and trafficked numerous protected species of reptiles that are found on several West Indies islands, smuggling into the United States both iguanas and tortoises that in some cases exist only in the region. The reptiles were smuggled into the United States aboard cruise ships touring the West Indies that employed Cunningham as a comedian and Lawracy as dive instructor.
Several of the smuggled iguana species and sub-species (Cyclura), including the White's Cay Rock Iguana and the Exuma Island Rock Iguana, exist only in the Bahama Islands. These are threatened with extinction, with wild populations reduced to several hundred reptiles in some cases. The smuggled Rock Iguanas and Lesser Antillean Iguanas were often marketed for as much as $1,000 each.
Evidence in the case established that, in order to conceal the smuggling of Exuma Island Rock Iguanas, Cunningham obtained a permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the "captive breeding" of species listed under the Endangered Species Act to create the impression that his sale of these reptiles stemmed from a viable domestic breeding program rather than the smuggling of wild animals.