Texas Biologist Indicted for Wildlife Trafficking

1 year ago
AMERICA NEWS NOW

A federal grand jury sitting in Amarillo, Texas, issued an indictment today charging Dr. Richard Kazmaier, 54, with smuggling goods into the United States and two violations of the Endangered Species Act. The indictment alleges that Kazmaier, an associate professor of biology at West Texas A&M University, imported protected wildlife items into the country without declaring it or obtaining the required permits.

The Endangered Species Act and federal regulations require importers to declare wildlife, including parts and products, to customs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when it enters the country. The indictment charges that, between March 2017 and February 2020, Kazmaier imported wildlife items from around the world into the United States without declaring them. These items included skulls, skeletons and taxidermy mounts.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates trade in endangered or threatened species through permit requirements. The United States and 183 other countries are signatories to the CITES treaty. The indictment also charges Kazmaier with importing wildlife items from 14 protected species without obtaining permits, including the Eurasian otter, lynx, caracal, vervet monkey, greater naked-tailed armadillo and king bird-of-paradise.

The maximum sentence for the felony smuggling charge is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The two Endangered Species Act charges are misdemeanors with a maximum sentence of one year incarceration and a $100,000 fine.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement in Redmond, Washington, conducted the investigation as part of Operation Global Reach. The operation focused on the trafficking of wildlife from Indonesia to the United States. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Bell for the Northern District of Texas and Trial Attorney Ryan Connors of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resource Division’s Environmental Crimes Section.

An indictment is only an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven otherwise before a jury at trial.

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