Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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Illinois Corrections Officer Convicted of Killing Protected Tigers and Leopards
Midwest Region, April 3, 2003
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A federal jury in Chicago returned a guilty verdict today against William R. Kapp of Tinley Park, Ill., for his role in the illegal trafficking and killing of federally protected tigers and leopards. Kapp was charged last May with 19 counts of violating the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act., federal wildlife protection laws. The jury found Kapp, 37, guilty of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and 17 other counts of violating the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act. The jury found him not guilty of two counts.

Evidence presented during the eight day trial established Kapp as a central figure in a group of seven Chicago area men and one business that engaged in illegal trafficking of tigers, leopards and other exotic animals. Kapp brokered the sale of endangered tigers and leopards obtained from exotic animal brokers and animal park operators in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Florida. Evidence showed that Kapp, a corrections officer in the Will County Sheriff's Department, participated in the killing of tigers and other animals while still confined in cages or trailers. Hides, mounts and meat from the animals were later sold for thousands of dollars to buyers in Illinois and Michigan.

Debra Bonamici and Gabriel Fuentes, assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Northern District of Illinois presented the government's case against Kapp, who brokered the sale of 18 endangered tigers and leopards beginning in 1997. ?Mr. Kapp wrongly believed these animals were worth more dead than alive,? Bonamici said. ?The jury agreed with us, and upheld the provisions of these important wildlife protection laws.?

U.S. District Court Judge Blanche M. Manning, scheduled sentencing for July 18, 2003 at 11:30 a.m. Kapp faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

The guilty verdict is the result of Operation Snow Plow, a lengthy investigation into the trafficking of exotic animals by special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Beginning in 1997, Service special agents, working closely with U.S. Attorney's Offices in Illinois, Missouri and Michigan, uncovered a loosely organized group 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 meat and skins into the lucrative animal parts trade. A total of 16 individuals in six states were charged with violating various federal wildlife protection laws. Fifteen of the defendants pleaded guilty without a trial. Kapp was only defendant to argue his case before a jury

?Today's verdict shows the results of the dedication and perseverance of our special agents who work very hard to protect wildlife,? said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Tim Santel who led the lengthy investigation. ?It feels good to get this conviction.?

Tigers are listed as "Endangered" under the federal Endangered Species Act. The law also protects leopards. Although federal regulations allow possession of captive-bred tigers, the regulations stipulate activities involving their use must be to enhance the propagation or survival of the species. It is unlawful to kill the animals for profit, or to sell their hides, parts or meats into interstate commerce.

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov
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