Kevin M. McMaster Sentenced to 25 Months in Federal Prison For Selling Federally-Protected Wildlife Valued at More Than $200,000
April 20, 2006
Tim Santel, 217-
Tom MacKenzie, 404-679-7291
A Pennsylvania man who sold
more than $200,000 worth of endangered species’ parts, hides and
mounts through his website and retail shop in Port St. Lucie, Florida,
was sentenced 25 months in prison today by a federal court in Miami,
Fla. Kevin M. McMaster, of Greensboro, Pa., was also ordered to serve
three years of supervised probation upon his release from prison and
pay a $250 special court assessment.
McMaster, 35, recently relocated to Greensboro, Pa., from Port St.
Lucie where he operated a website known as Deadzoo.com and a retail
store, Exotic & Unique Gifts, businesses through which he admitted
to selling more than $200,000 worth of federally-protected wildlife
including tiger, snow leopard and jaguar skins as well as a gorilla
skull and baby tiger mounts between 2003 and 2004.
Special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service began investigating
McMaster’s illegal wildlife trade in November 2003 after an agent
in Illinois received an unsolicited e-mail message from McMaster offering “cat
skins” for sale. The agent eventually purchased two Bengal tiger
skins for $15,300; a snow leopard skin for $7,000 and a clouded leopard
skin for $4,500. Agents searched McMaster’s Florida home in December
2004 and obtained evidence of additional illegal sales.
In addition to his own website, McMaster offered to sell protected
wildlife using other websites such as eBay and Taxidermy.net. Tim Santel,
resident agent in charge at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s
Law Enforcement Office in Springfield, Ill., said the Internet provides
users with a false sense of anonymity and security that encourages
some people to engage in illegal activities. “The Internet is
helping to grow the illegal wildlife trade, but it’s also providing
law enforcement with the means to investigate and track down the traders,” said
Santel, who led the investigation. “Today’s sentencing
demonstrates the Internet is not a safe haven for anyone engaged in
the illegal buying or selling of protected wildlife.”
McMaster was charged by criminal information in December 2005 with
two felony violations of the Lacey Act and two misdemeanor violations
of the Endangered Species Act, two federal wildlife protection laws.
McMaster pleaded guilty in federal court in January 2006 to selling
and offering to sell in interstate commerce more than $200,000 worth
of endangered species. The Lacey Act prohibits the transportation of
endangered and threatened wildlife that was knowingly sold in violation
of any federal wildlife-related regulation or law, and the charge carries
a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.
Under the ESA it unlawful to offer for sale or to sell in interstate
commerce any endangered species of wildlife, and the charge carries
a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment and a fine of $100,000.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife
and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses more than 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands
of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates
66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological
services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws,
administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations,
restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife
habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their
conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance Program
that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on
fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.