Six Face Animal Smuggling Charges

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Federal prosecutors charged six Southern Californians with selling endangered species and animal parts, including wildcat pelts, through online sites such as Craigslist.
     Five criminal cases against six people involved prosecutors and undercover agents across the United States and three Southeast Asian countries, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
     Operation Wild Web was designed to catch and disrupt illegal trafficking of wildlife through the Internet.
     Along with drug and electronics, animals and animals parts are among the most lucrative smuggled items.
     Undercover agents made at least 150 purchases of illegal wildlife in the two weeks before the busts, prosecutors said in the statement.
     All the following information was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
     Hanna Karim, 44, and his wife, Margarita Licomitros, 36, both of Huntington Beach, are accused of selling a Sumatran Tiger skin for $8,000 through Craigslist. Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild. Karim and Licomitros are charged with offering an endangered species for sale. If convicted, they face up to a year in federal prison.
     Rene De La Peza, 42, of Hacienda Heights, is accused of selling a jaguar skin for $15,000 through Craigslist. Jaguars, the largest cat in the Americas, have been listed as endangered for 40 years. De La Peza is charged with offering an endangered species for sale.
     Michael Roy McIntire, 59, of Encino, is accused of selling three migratory bird mounts in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. All migratory birds – such as the canvasback, cinnamon teal and mallard involved in this case – are protected under international treaties. Even legally hunted birds cannot be sold. If convicted, McIntire faces up to six months in prison.
     Rodrigo Macedo, 29, of Hesperia, is accused selling two Western scrub jays in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
     Lewis Keister, 42, of the Hancock Park district of Los Angeles and the owner of East Meets West Antiques on La Brea Avenue, is charged with a felony offense of illegally trafficking wildlife. He allegedly sold a pair of seal fur moccasins for $750 in August 2012. He also is accused of selling three Native American dolls, one said to be made of whale bone, and three bags, one of seal fur. If convicted of violating the Lacey Act, Keister faces up to five years in prison.
     All the defendants are scheduled for arraignment on Aug. 8.

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