LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – R. Alexander Acosta, United S…

LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Eddie McKissick, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced today that David G. Sparandara, 46, a U.S. citizen residing in Prague, Czech Republic, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Miami in connection with the illegal sale and transportation from the Czech Republic to Miami of a live Asian Leopard Cat, Felis (Prionailurus) bengalensis bengalensis, an endangered species, in violation of the federal Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372 and 3373.

United States District Court Judge Adalberto Jordan sentenced Sparandara to a term of six (6) months of home confinement, a fine of up to $1,500.00, and five (5) years of probation. Additionally, the leopard cat involved in the commission of the offenses charged in the Indictment was forfeited to the United States.

The feline involved in this matter, is of a taxonomic sub-species specifically listed as an endangered species of wildlife, pursuant to the list of such species promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 17.11. It was first listed in June 1976. A small wild spotted cat, weighing about 10 pounds, the nocturnal feline is generally solitary and prefers brush and forest habitat. Asian Leopard Cats are prized by afficionados for their rarity and color pattern. However, they also have substantial commercial value in the pet trade due to their susceptibility to hybridization with domestic cats, which produces the “Bengal cat” pet species. According to statements in Court, the organization run by Sparandara in fact was little more than the feline version of a “puppy mill” which sold leopard cats to private breeders in the United States to produce Bengal cats for the high end pet trade.

According to the case records and statements in Court today, in January 2005 a Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Inspector in Texas became aware that the defendant, and a Prague-based entity known as the European-American Consortium For Small Felines of which he was the Director, was preparing to ship two Asian Leopard Cats to the United States. Investigation by the Inspector revealed that no one associated with Defendant, the Consortium, or the named recipients held valid Endangered Species Act (ESA) permits for the importations as required by law.

Defendant was specifically advised of the restriction by the Inspector, but made no effort to acquire the necessary ESA permits, and re-routed one of the leopard cats through Miami International Airport on February 2, 2005. Paperwork accompanying the bengalensis indicated that it was being sold to the importer for in excess of $4,000. A subsequent effort by Sparandara in December 2005 to ship another bengalensis into Miami resulted in the interception and seizure of the feline.

The Division of Management Authority, within the Fish & Wildlife Service administers the ESA permit program and issues permits in accordance with as strict set of regulatory guidelines. Permits related to species designated as endangered are only issued to bona fide scientific and research facilities with the specific goal of enhancing the propagation or survival of the wildlife under consideration. The ESA list is a compilation of species which have been determined to be so depleted in numbers that they are in danger of extinction.

Mr. Acosta commended the coordinated investigative efforts of the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service Agents and Inspectors The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Certified Legal Intern Courtney R. Berman.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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