Published : Mon, 16 Jul 2007 21:24
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – A former Ohio animal dealer who sold endangered African leopards to buyers in New York and Guam pleaded guilty to illegally transporting protected wildlife, federal authorities said Monday.
Brett Hewitt, 36, of Fredericksburg, Ohio, could face up to five years in prison when he is sentenced in October.
Hewitt, who operated West Wing Exotics in Fredericksburg, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Buffalo to a federal charge of transporting protected wildlife which had been sold in violation of law. Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryEllen Kresse said Hewitt knew that African leopards are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and therefore, could not be sold in interstate commerce.
During a 19-month period beginning in August 2003, a Long Island buyer paid Hewitt $7,000 for three leopards and a couple from Sinclairville in western New York paid $1,300 for one of the animals, prosecutors said. The remaining two leopards were sold to two buyers in Guam for $2,500 each.