Hanna Karim and Margarita Licomitros Accused of Selling Endangered Tiger Skin Online
"Tigers are critically endangered throughout the world, with estimates that there are less than 500 Sumatran tigers remaining in the wild," reads a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office in LA.
Hanna Karim, 44, and his wife Margarita Licomitros, 36, were arrested as part of Operation Wild Web, an investigation coordinated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that includes investigators and prosecutors across the U.S. and in three Southeast Asian countries. Two undercover agents posed as buyers of endangered or protected wildlife or invasive species that threaten this country's native fish, according to federal prosecutors.
Other Southern California residents besides Karim and Licomitros charged last week with violations of federal environmental laws due to the Operation Wild Web investigation are:
-Rene De La Peza, 42, of Hacienda Heights, accused of selling a jaguar skin for $15,000 after advertising the item on Craigslist. "Jaguars, the largest cat found in the Americas, have been listed as endangered for 40 years," reads the U.S. Attorney's statement.
-Michael Roy McIntire, 59, of Encino, accused of selling three migratory bird mounts in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. "All migratory birds--such as the birds involved in this case: a canvasback, a cinnamon teal and a mallard--are protected under treaties between the United States, Russia, Canada and Mexico:" U.S. Attorney.
-Rodrigo Macedo, 29, of Hesperia, accused selling two Western Scrub Jays in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
-Lewis Keister, 42, a resident of the Hancock Park and the owner of East Meets West Antiques on La Brea Avenue, charged with illegally trafficking wildlife for allegedly selling a pair of seal fur moccasins for $750 last August. "The complaint affidavit also alleges that he sold three Native American dolls, one said to be made of whale bone, and three bags, one made of seal fur, to an undercover agent last December."
All of the accused are expected to make their first federal court appearances on Aug. 8.
* Writer's note at 4 p.m.: a comment was posted Monday morning by someone claiming to be "Karim Hanna." It was later deleted, but not by anyone at the Weekly. Here is a screen shot of that comment, whose reactions by me and a reader remain below the deleted comment note in our comments section: