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Press Release

Texas Biologist Sentenced for Wildlife Trafficking

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A federal judge in Amarillo yesterday sentenced Dr. Richard Kazmaier, 55, to six months in prison, three years of post-release supervision, and a $5,000 fine. Kazmaier pleaded guilty on Aug. 19, 2022, to a Lacey Act felony for importing protected wildlife into the United States without declaring it or obtaining the required permits.

According to court documents, Kazmaier was an associate professor of biology at West Texas A&M University before resigning in October 2022. A federal grand jury issued an indictment in January 2022 charging Kazmaier with smuggling goods into the United States and two violations of the Endangered Species Act. Kazmaier pleaded guilty to a superseding information charging the Lacey Act, the nation’s oldest wildlife trafficking statute. The court dismissed the indictment at the government’s request.

The Lacey Act and federal regulations require importers to declare wildlife to customs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when it enters the country. Between March 2013 and February 2020, Kazmaier admitted he imported wildlife items from Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Latvia, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay into Texas without declaring them. Kazmaier admitted he purchased and imported approximately 358 wildlife items with a total market value of $14,423 from eBay and other online sales websites. He did not import any live animals and instead purchased mostly skulls, skeletons, and taxidermy mounts.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates trade in endangered or threatened species through permit requirements. The United States and 183 other countries are signatories to the CITES treaty. Kazmaier acknowledged importing 14 protected species without obtaining permits, including the Eurasian otter, lynx, caracal, vervet monkey, greater naked-tailed armadillo, and king bird-of-paradise.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement in Redmond, Washington, conducted the investigation as part of Operation Global Reach. The operation focused on the trafficking of wildlife from Indonesia to the United States.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Marie Bell for the Northern District of Texas and Senior Trial Attorney Ryan Connors of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section.

Updated April 4, 2024

Environmental Justice
Press Release Number: 23-26