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Florida ‘Monkey Whisperer’ guilty of illegal wildlife trade

March 2, 2022 GMT

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man who went by the nickname “the Monkey Whisperer” pleaded guilty Wednesday to illegally transporting and selling primates, including a species considered endangered.

Jimmy Wayne Hammonds, 57, of Parrish, pleaded guilty in Tampa federal court to violating the Endangered Species Act and Lacy Act, according to court records. He faces up to eight years in prison. A sentencing date wasn’t immediately set.

Prosecutors said Hammonds owned and operated a wildlife breeding and sales business called The Monkey Whisperer, LLC, through which he tried to sell a capuchin monkey to a buyer in California, even though the buyer could not legally own the animal.

Hammonds was accused of organizing the illegal transport of the monkey across the country, where authorities seized the animal from the buyer’s California home, according to the Justice Department.

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According to an indictment, Hammonds also sold endangered cotton-top tamarins, a species of endangered primates, to buyers in Alabama, South Carolina and Wisconsin, then concealed the animal trafficking by submitting false records to authorities and attempting to persuade a witness to lie to law enforcement.