TAMPA, FL – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the unsealing of an indictment charging Jimmy Wayne Hammonds, also known as “the Monkey Whisperer” (57, Parrish), with conspiracy, trafficking, and submitting a false record in violation of the Lacey Act, a federal law involving the illegal trade in wildlife. Hammonds was also charged with violations of the Endangered Species Act and witness tampering. If convicted, Hammonds faces a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment on the witness tampering count, up to 5 years in federal prison on each of the conspiracy and Lacey Act counts, and up to 1 year on each Endangered Species count.
According to the indictment, Hammonds owned and operated The Monkey Whisperer, LLC – a business engaged in the breeding and selling of wildlife. From September 2017 until February 2018, Hammonds conspired to sell a capuchin monkey to a buyer in California, even though that buyer could not lawfully possess a capuchin monkey in California. Hammonds facilitated the transportation of the capuchin monkey from Florida to California through individuals who were not permitted to possess that species of monkey in either state. Law enforcement later seized that monkey from the residence of the California buyer.
In addition, according to the indictment, Hammonds illegally sold cotton-top tamarins, which are primates listed as an endangered species, to buyers in Alabama, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. Hammonds allegedly concealed his unlawful wildlife trafficking by submitting false records to a law enforcement officer and attempted to persuade a witness to lie to a law enforcement officer.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Colin McDonell.