LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury today indicted a Texas woman who allegedly illegally sold a live jaguar cub for approximately $30,000 to a Riverside County man who soon afterward re-sold the cub, which was ultimately abandoned on the doorsteps of an animal rescue center.
Trisha Denise Meyer, a.k.a. “Mimi,” 40, of Houston, is charged in a four-count indictment with interstate transportation of an endangered species in the course of commercial activity, interstate sale of an endangered species, trafficking prohibited wildlife species, and trafficking endangered species.
Also charged in the indictment returned today is Abdul Rahman, a.k.a. “Manny Rahman,” 34, of Murrieta, who is charged with interstate transportation of an endangered species in the course of commercial activity, trafficking prohibited wildlife species, and trafficking endangered species.
The criminal charges against Meyer and Rahman allege violations of the Endangered Species Act, under which jaguars are protected, and the Lacey Act, which prohibits wildlife trafficking.
Local and federal law enforcement agents in Houston are currently searching for Meyer. Rahman will be summonsed to appear in United States District Court in Riverside on November 9.
According to the indictment, Meyer sold Rahman a live jaguar (Panthera onca) cub in spring 2021. Prior to the sale, Meyer posted on Instagram photographs and videos of herself with the cub, according to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint in this case. The cub’s sale price was approximately $30,000 and the animal was transported – for an additional $1,000 fee – from Texas to California.
Rahman owned the jaguar for one to two months before selling it for $20,000 to another buyer, identified in court documents as “H.G.” This individual lived in a house with a pregnant wife or girlfriend and later decided to allow the animal to be taken to a rescue center after someone expressed concerns about having a juvenile jaguar and a newborn infant in the same house, the affidavit states.
The person who expressed concerns about the jaguar – identified in court documents as “R.A.” – later told law enforcement that he and his roommate put the jaguar in a large dog kennel and drove it to an animal rescue center in Alpine. They dropped off the jaguar at the facility’s entrance on September 17, 2021, at approximately 9:50 p.m. The event was captured on security cameras and law enforcement was notified.
The jaguar remains at the animal sanctuary in Alpine.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted of all charges, Meyers would face a statutory maximum sentence of eight years in federal prison and a $700,000 fine. Rahman would face a statutory maximum sentence of seven years in federal prison and a $600,000 fine.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are investigating this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Joseph O. Johns of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section is prosecuting this case.