Operation Cyberwild nabs a dozen people for trying to sell exotic animals, exotic animal clothing and more

United States Attorney's Office/Central District of California

Victor Northrop, 48, of Henderson, Nevada, who allegedly accepted $10,000 for a rug made out of an endangered tiger after offering the item for sale on Craigslist for $12,500.

United States Attorney's Office/Central District of California

Lisa Naumu, 49, of San Diego, who allegedly sold an $8,000 leopard skin coat after placing an ad on Craigslist that offered three of such coats for sale.

United States Attorney's Office/Central District of California

Henry Dao, 41, of Garden Grove, who allegedly sold two live Red-whiskered Bulbul birds for $1,750 after offering the injurious species for sale on a website used to trade and sell “softbills.”

United States Attorney's Office/Central District of California

Kamipeli Piuleini, 35, of Torrance, who allegedly sold a Hawksbill sea turtle shell that had been listed on eBay.

United States Attorney's Office/Central District of California

Tyler Homesley, 24, of Ramona, who allegedly offered to sell three birds – including two protected migratory birds, a Eurasian kestrel and a Black-shouldered Kite – for $150 after placing an online advertisement (plus a $25 delivery fee for total price of $175).

United States Attorney's Office/Central District of California

George Lovell, 49, of Las Vegas, who allegedly sold a pair of Loggerhead sea turtle leather boots for $1,000 after offering them for sale on Craigslist. Lovell was arrested this morning and is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in federal court in Las Vegas.

United States Attorney's Office/Central District of California

Karla Trejo, 42, of Sherman Oaks, who is charged with selling a live Western Scrub-Jay for $185 after posting an ad on Craigslist.

United States Attorney's Office/Central District of California

Alex Madar, 27, of San Diego, who allegedly sold sea turtle leather shoes for $250 after posting the items for sale on Craigslist.

United States Attorney's Office/Central District of California

Dan Tram “Majkah” Huynh, 30, of San Diego, who allegedly sold an Asian arowana to an undercover agent for $2,500 after offering the fish for sale on Craigslist.


Federal prosecutors announced Friday that a dozen people have been charged with violating wildlife protection laws by trying to sell nearly 50 "wildlife items" online — including a live piranha, endangered fish and birds, a polar bear pelt and sea turtle boots.

Nine people face federal charges and three face California state charges. If convicted, they could face six months to a year in prison and fines of up to $100,000.

The charges were filed Thursday under "Operation Cyberwild," a joint federal and state investigation that began in July, a U.S. attorney's office statement said. Undercover investigators posed as buyers and answered ads placed on websites by sellers in Southern California and southern Nevada.

Special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and game wardens from the California Department of Fish and Game also bought a leopard skin coat for $8,000, a tiger rug for $10,000, a live Asian arowana fish for $2,500 and two live red-whiskered bulbul birds for $1,750, authorities said.

During the investigation, authorities also seized live endangered fish and protected migratory birds, an elephant foot, mounted birds and pelts from a leopard and a bear, federal prosecutors said.

“We made our first undercover purchase within 24 hours of beginning the operation,” said Erin Dean in a statement. Dean is an agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based in Torrance.

“We hope that this operation will send a message to individuals selling – or even considering selling – protected wildlife that we are watching and that we take these offenses seriously.”

The Operation Cyberwild task force was aided by volunteers from the Humane Society of the United States.

"It's really hiding in plain sight," said Jennifer Fearing, Director of the Humane Society's California division. "[Exotic animal sales] are a multi-billion dollar a year industry, third only to illegal drugs and the gun trade. There are tens of millions of animals traded around the world every year, and the Internet makes it harder."

About a half dozen volunteers from Los Angeles and across Southern California spent weeks scanning websites like Craigslist, eBay and various sellers' forums searching for participants in the illegal animal trade.

"It's pretty exciting to participate in an unprecedented federal investigation while you're sitting in your living room in your pajamas," laughed Fearing. Fearing herself didn't participate, but did direct investigators to potential candidates.

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