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US Fish & Wildlife Service - Journal Entry
Owner of Chicago Area Exotic Meat Market Sentenced to Six Months in Prison
Region 0, December 18, 2003
Richard Czimer, owner of a suburban Chicago exotic meat market was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Chicago to serve six months in federal prison, pay a $5,000 fine and perform 300 hours of community service for his role in a Midwest exotic animal trafficking operation that illegally bought and sold the hides, parts and meat of federally protected tigers and leopards. Czimer is the sole proprietor of Czimer's Game and Seafoods, Inc., in Lockport, Ill., which was also sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $24,000 fine.

In addition to the fines, Czimer and his business were ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Blanche Manning to share in the payment of $116,000 in restitution to the Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save the Tiger Fund. Czimer and his business will also pay a total of $500 in special court assessments. As an individual, Czimer will serve two years probation upon his release from prison.

In a February 2003 plea agreement with the government, Czimer pleaded guilty to purchasing the meat of a federally-protected black spotted leopard in August 1997, a felony violation of the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife protection law. In his plea, Czimer admitted that between August 1997 and October 31, 1998, he also purchased the carcasses of 16 federally-protected tigers, four lions, two mountain lions and one liger (a tiger-lion hybrid). The animals were then skinned, butchered and sold as ?lion meat? at Czimer's Meat and Seafoods, Inc., realizing a profit of more than $38,000. The restitution of $116,000 was also part of his plea agreement with the government.

During sentencing, Judge Manning said she was disturbed by the fact that Czimer had endangered the public by selling meat that was not inspected.

Czimer, is the last of seven Chicago area men to be sentenced as a result of ?Operation Snow Plow? a lengthy investigation of the illegal exotic animal trade by special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Beginning in 1997, Service investigators, working closely with U.S. Attorney's Offices in Illinois, Missouri and Michigan, uncovered a group of individuals and small business owners in the Midwest that bought and killed exotic tigers, leopards, snow leopards, lions, mountain lions, cougars, mixed breed cats and black bears with the intention of introducing the meat, skins and parts into the lucrative animal parts trade. A total of 17 defendants in seven states have been charged and convicted as a result of the investigation.

In November, William Kapp of Tinley Park, Ill., was sentenced to 51 months in prison and ordered to pay $6,700 in fines and special assessments. Prosecutors showed that Kapp was the central figure in the trafficking operation, brokering the sale of 18 captive-bred tigers and leopards obtained from animal dealers and exhibitors in Missouri, Arkansas, Florida and Oklahoma. The cats and other animals were killed while confined in trailers or cages. Their hides, mounts and meats fetched thousands of dollars from buyers in Illinois and Michigan

Contact Info: Kevin Painter, , kevin_painter@fws.gov