Big Cat Illegally Sold In Parking Lot By Texas Couple

Jaguar resting in the jungle

Photo: Getty Images

In the Rio Grande Valley, a couple found themselves in cuffs this Tuesday on charges of selling a margay cub and attempting to sell a jaguar cub.

U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani delivered the announcement on Wednesday, revealing the names of the accused as Rafeal Gutierrez-Galvan, 29, and Deyanira Garza, 28. The duo made their initial appearance in federal court the same day, facing allegations tied to the illegal sale of "protected wildlife" – a groundbreaking case, being the first under The Big Cat Act, which became law in December 2022.

According to the criminal complaint, Gutierrez-Galvan conducted the sale of a margay cub for $7,500 on August 24 in a parking lot adjacent to an Academy Sports and Outdoors store. He then allegedly attempted to sell a jaguar cub to the same party on September 26, directing his wife, Garza, to transport a cash case from their home. However, law enforcement intercepted Garza during transit, discovering the money during a traffic stop.

Both animals were subsequently recovered as part of the investigation.

The couple lacked the necessary permits to buy, sell, trade or transport exotic creatures like margays and jaguars. If convicted, they could each face a maximum of five years in federal prison and a $20,000 fine.

The Big Cat Act was enacted to curtail private ownership of big cats and prohibit public contact with them, while the Endangered Species Act further restricts the trade and transportation of threatened and endangered species, including jaguars.

The investigation, led by the Fish and Wildlife Service and Homeland Security Investigations, received support from Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Houston and San Antonio Zoos, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Devin V. Walker prosecuting the case.

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