|Hunter Sentenced For Illegal Leopard Trophy
South Dakota Man Did Not Have Permit
POSTED: 6:24 pm MDT October 17, 2008
PIERRE, S.D. — A South Dakota man pleaded guilty Friday to making a false statement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in an attempt to illegally import a leopard hide and skull from a trophy hunt in South Africa, the U.S. Justice Department announced.
Jerry Mason of Frankfort pleaded guilty in federal court in Denver to a violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which is enforceable under the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act, officials said.
Mason was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and a $10,000 community-service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. He will forfeit the hide and skull and was sentenced to 48 months probation during which he cannot hunt or accompany anyone else on a hunt anywhere in the world.
According to the facts in the plea agreement, Mason went to South Africa in August 2002 to hunt leopards while guided by South African outfitter Jan Groenewald Swart, who was doing business as Trophy Hunting Safaris. Mason shot and killed a leopard, even though he knew neither he nor Swart possessed a valid permit.
Because the leopards were killed illegally, Mason would not obtain a valid export permit in South Africa. In order to import leopard hides and skulls into the United States, he bought fraudulent permits in Zimbabwe and then provided false information to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to federal officials.
Swart pleaded guilty last year to smuggling charges in federal court in Colorado, and is currently serving an 18-month prison sentence, the Justice Department said.
“Trafficking in protected animals is a serious crime, so smugglers beware,” said U.S. Attorney Troy Eid.
Leopards can be moved from one country to another only with export and import permits that are issued only for leopards that have been killed with valid hunting permits.
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