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Department of Justice
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

South Dakota Man Sentenced for Smuggling Big Game Leopard Hide into the United States

WASHINGTON—Wayne D. Breitag of Aberdeen, S.D., was sentenced in federal court in Aberdeen yesterday to pay a $20,000 fine and serve six months of home confinement for smuggling the hide of a leopard into the United States in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Justice Department announced today.

The leopard was hunted and killed in South Africa illegally and then smuggled into Zimbabwe to obtain a false CITES-permit for shipment to the United States.

Breitag was also sentenced to serve three years of supervised release during which time he cannot hunt or accompany anyone on a hunt and must forfeit the hide. He was convicted by a jury on Oct. 30, 2009, for violations of the Lacey Act, the federal wildlife statute that makes CITES enforceable.

Leopards (Panthera pardus) are listed on Appendix I of CITES. CITES requires that prior to the transport of any part of an Appendix I species from one country to another, an export permit from the country of origin (or a re-export certificate), and an import permit from the country to which the specimen will be shipped, must be obtained and accompany the shipment. The CITES authorities in South Africa set a yearly quota on the number of export permits issued by that country for Appendix I species, such as leopards. These permits are only issued for leopards which have been killed with a valid hunting permit.

Breitag was found guilty of traveling to South Africa in August 2002 to hunt leopards while guided by a South African outfitter named Jan Groenewald Swart doing business as "Trophy Hunting Safaris." Breitag shot and killed a leopard at that time.

Swart arranged to have the hide smuggled from South Africa into Zimbabwe, where he purchased a fraudulent CITES export permit for the leopard hide. Breitag then submitted applications to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) falsely claiming that he hunted and killed the leopard in Zimbabwe. On Nov. 5, 2004, USFWS inspectors seized a shipment of five leopard hides and three leopard skulls at the Denver International Airport, which included the hide of the leopard that Breitag killed illegally in South Africa in 2002.

On May 21, 2007, Jan Groenewald Swart pleaded guilty to smuggling charges in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado for his role in the illegal hunts. Swart served an 18-month prison sentence, has since been released and deported.

The investigation of this case was lead by the USFWS. The case was prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the District of South Dakota and Colorado.

Press Release Number: 
Updated September 15, 2014