What comes around, goes around......
Mon, Mar. 17, 2003 (St Patrick's Day:)
Trial to shed light on underground animal trade
BY JON YATES
CHICAGO - (KRT) - A Chicago area man admits he was part of a Midwestern ring that slaughtered dozens of animals for their body parts during the late 1990s, shooting some while they were confined to cages.
But Bill Kapp, 37, believes he did nothing wrong.
This week, the Will County corrections officer is scheduled to go on trial in one of the largest endangered species cases in U.S. history. All 15 of Kapp's co-defendants have pleaded guilty in the case, leaving only Kapp to fight the charges in federal court.
Any or all of Kapp's co-defendants could take the stand against him, promising to provide a detailed look into the secretive, multibillion-dollar underground animal trade. "If this does, in fact, go to trial and a lot of people do take the stand, I think the public and the conservation community are going to be horrified by what they hear," said Craig Hoover, deputy director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade-monitoring program of the World Wildlife Fund.
"This case certainly shines a bright light on activities that we weren't generally aware of," Hoover said.
Prosecutors say the group bought, sold and killed endangered leopards and tigers, selling their pelts to wealthy collectors and their meat to a Lockport, Ill., butcher. Those who have pleaded guilty have described grisly killings, including a March 25, 1998, incident in which eight tigers were shot and skinned inside a warehouse in Alsip, the largest documented slaughter of endangered tigers in U.S. history.
Kapp, who participated in that 1998 incident, has repeatedly argued that he broke no laws. His argument is simple: The tigers and leopards he killed were mixed breeds and therefore not considered endangered, making them legal to kill.
"They're hybrids, they're not federally protected," said Kapp's lawyer, Scott Kamin, who said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed its policies in 1998, removing cross-bred tigers - the offspring of different tiger subspecies from the endangered species list.
"They've sort of left a loophole, sort of like a tax loophole," Kamin said. "That's how I see it."
Many legal experts disagree, saying Kapp and Kamin have misread the law and that the leopards and tigers Kapp killed were, in fact, endangered.
"They're all still protected," said Gerry Brady, director of the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Mich., who coordinates the breeding and management of Sumatran tigers for North American zoos. "The law covers all tigers."
Prosecutors make no secret of how they view Kapp's role in the animal-killing ring.
"Certainly, Bill Kapp represents the worst element of the whole operation," said Scott Flaherty, spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, which worked the case. "We're looking forward to the trial."
Agents began investigating the exotic animal ring in 1997, after a whistleblower in Illinois contacted wildlife officials, concerned that several animals she had sold were later killed for their skins.
Over the next two years, federal officials used undercover agents, taped phone conversations and paperwork to document the lives and deaths of dozens of animals. Armed with a warehouse full of evidence, federal prosecutors began filing charges in 2001 against animal dealers in Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Michigan. Last year, prosecutors announced indictments against seven Chicago-area residents, including Kapp.
The last man to plead guilty in the case, Richard Czimer, admitted in court Feb. 28 that he had purchased the carcasses of endangered tigers and leopards from Kapp and others, then sold the meat in his butcher shop, Czimer's Game and Seafood in Lockport. Czimer is expected to testify in Kapp's trial, which is expected to last two weeks. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday before Judge Blanche Manning in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Kamin said his client will probably take the stand in his own defense.
Catman asks "What about Richard Czimer?"
CHICAGO, Illinois, March 4, 2003 (ENS)
The owner of an exotic meat market in suburban Chicago faces five years imprisonment and up to $250,000 in fines after pleading guilty Friday in federal court in Chicago to a felony violation of the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife protection law.
Richard Czimer, president and operator of Czimer's Game and Seafoods, Inc. in Lockport, pleaded guilty to purchasing the meat of a federally protected black spotted leopard (Panthera pardus) in August 1997. Czimer entered his plea before Judge Blanche Manning at the U.S. District Court in Chicago.
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 Seafood, realizing a profit of more than $38,000. Czimer said he purchased the carcasses from co-defendants William Kapp of Tinley Park, Illinois, Steven Galecki of Crete, Illinois, and Kevin Ramsey formerly of Oak Forest, Illinois, and now living in Wisconsin Czimer is scheduled to be sentenced June 27, 2003. As part of his guilty plea,
Czimer has agreed to pay $116,000 in restitution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save the Tiger Fund.
Czimer was among seven men indicted in Chicago in May 2002 on numerous wildlife protection and trafficking charges. A total of 17 individuals and one business in eight states were charged as a result of a lengthy investigation by special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service into the trafficking of exotic animals. Service investigators, working closely with U.S. Attorney's Offices in Illinois, Missouri and Michigan uncovered a group of residents and small business owners in the Midwest that allegedly 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.
Tigers are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The law also protects leopards, which are classified as either endangered or threatened depending on the location of the wild population. Although federal regulations allow possession of tigers bred in captivity, 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 sport or profit, or to sell their hides, parts or meats into interstate commerce.
Epilogue Nov. 2003 - Last Of The Ring Is Sentenced
US Fish & Wildlife Service - Journal Entry
Illinois Man Sentenced for Killing, Selling Endangered Big Cats
William R. Kapp, an Illinois corrections officer and taxidermist, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Chicago to spend more than 4 years in prison for his role in orchestrating a Midwest wildlife trafficking ring that bought and killed endangered tigers and leopards in order to sell their hides, parts and meat.
Kapp, a Tinley Park, Ill., resident, must also pay a $5,000 fine and a $1,700 special assessment, and perform 300 hours of community service. He was also sentenced to 3 years of supervised release following his release from prison. Kapp also forfeited all wildlife in his possession that was seized by federal agents.
A federal jury convicted Kapp last April after an eight-day trial, finding him guilty of conspiracy and 16 counts of violating the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits interstate commerce in unlawfully killed wildlife. Kapp was investigated as part of a lengthy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service probe that revealed the existence of a lucrative and thriving black market for big cat hides, parts and meats.
During the trial, Kapp emerged as the central figure in a group of seven Chicago-area men indicted in May 2002, along with a Lockport, Ill., exotic meat business, for wildlife trafficking. Prosecutors showed that Kapp brokered the sale of 18 captive-bred tigers and leopards obtained from animal dealers and exhibitors in Missouri, Arkansas, Florida and Oklahoma. He participated in killing big cats and other animals that were confined in trailers or cages; their hides, mounts and meats fetched thousands of dollars from buyers in Illinois and Michigan. (see photos of Kapp's grisly work)
Putting African Lion on the endangered species list will make it harder for these people to ply their gruesome and illegal trade.
Write your US Congressman, and Senator (or your government, if from another country) and ask them to make lions a world class endangered species.
Maybe we can just send all the lions back to Africa? Isn't that a great idea?
Click Here To See What Fate Awaits Them There