LOS ANGELES, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Rene De La Peza was unaware that he had become a target of undercover U.S. agents when he advertised to sell a jaguar skin on Craigslist, a shopping website.
Peza and five other residents in Southern California have been arrested and charged with selling endangered animal species and parts, including tiger and bear skin, jaguar skin, pelts taken from wild cats, etc., the U.S. district attorney's office said Thursday.
U.S. law enforcement agencies have launched an undercover operation dubbed "Wild Web" to target offenders who use the Internet to advertise and sell endangered animal species and parts.
Peza, 42, of Hacienda Heights in Southern California, was caught red-handed when he tried to sell a jaguar skin for 15,000 dollars after advertising the item on Craigslist.
If convicted, Peza could be sent to federal prison for up to one year. Jaguars, the largest cat found in the Americas, have been listed as endangered for 40 years.
According to the U.S. district attorney's office, Hanna Karim, 44, and his wife, Margarita Licomitros, 36, were accused of selling a Sumatran Tiger skin for 8,000 dollars after the item was advertised on Craigslist.
Michael Roy McIntire, 59, was 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 all protected under treaties between the United States, Russia, Canada and Mexico. Even legally hunted birds cannot be sold.
Rodrigo Macedo, 29, was accused of selling two Western Scrub Jays in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of six months in federal prison.
Lewis Keister, 42, a resident of the Hancock Park district of Los Angeles, was charged with a felony offense of illegally trafficking wildlife for allegedly selling a pair of seal fur moccasins for 750 dollars last August.
The complaint affidavit also alleged 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.
If convicted, Keister would face a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
The charges contained in the five criminal cases filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles stem from an investigation coordinated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which involved investigators and prosecutors across the United States and in three Southeast Asian countries.
Operation Wild Web was designed to disrupt the trafficking of illegal wildlife on the Internet.
Investigators posing as buyers focused on endangered or protected wildlife, as well as invasive species that threaten the native fish species in the United States.
As part of Operation Wild Web, state and federal prosecutors across the U.S. have filed well over 100 criminal cases, with most of the cases being filed in California, Texas and Florida.