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Texas

Former WTAMU professor sentenced to 6 months in federal prison

AMARILLO, TX (KAMR/KCIT) — Richard Kazmaier, a former professor of biology at West Texas A&M University, was sentenced to six months in federal prison during a hearing Tuesday in Amarillo Federal Court. This comes after Kazmaier pleaded guilty in August 2022 to one count of “human trafficking under the Lacey Act” related to incidents between March 2017 and February 2020.

According to previous reports from MyHighPlains.com, Kazmaier has imported more than 350 wildlife items worth over $14,400 into the United States from online sellers around the world over a period of seven years. This includes countries such as:

  • Bulgaria;
  • Canada;
  • China;
  • Czech Republic;
  • Indonesia;
  • Latvia;
  • Norway;
  • Russia;
  • South Africa;
  • Spain;
  • United Kingdom;
  • Uruguay.

The plea agreement and factual summary, which was filed in August 2022, focused on 14 specific incidents between March 2017 and February 2020 where Kazmaier imported the following wild animals without declaring the items to customs or obtaining the necessary permits:

  • Golden Jackal – March 2, 2017;
  • Caracal – March 5, 2017;
  • Eurasian Otter – May 6, 2017;
  • Vervetka – May 18, 2017
  • Red-billed leiotrix – July 24, 2017;
  • Chinese Hwamei – August 11, 2017;
  • Crab-Eating Fox – October 8, 2017;
  • Masked Palm Civet – November 4, 2017;
  • mountain caresses – February 1, 2018;
  • Royal Bird of Paradise – February 5, 2018;
  • African harrier hawk – February 5, 2018;
  • Great bare-tailed armadillo, October 28, 2018;
  • Shrews of Horsfield – August 8, 2019

“Kazmaier knew that wildlife merchandise entering the United States had to be declared to Customs and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He also knew that wildlife protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora required additional import and/or export permits before they could be traded internationally,” the actual summary reads. . “He knew that the wild animals listed in the CITIES treaty were endangered or could be endangered if their international trade was not restricted.”

Documents from the time stated that Kazmaier purchased these items with his own funds and stored them at West Texas A&M University. He reportedly did not resell any items, but traded or gave away some of the wildlife to other professors, students, and collectors. In a statement provided to MyHighPlains.com in late September 2020, West Texas A&M University officials said that Kazmaier is no longer an employee of the university.

According to the factual summary, the prosecution gathered various pieces of evidence before Kazmaier pleaded guilty to the charges, including:

  • Online sales records;
  • banking history;
  • Shipping information detailing Kazmaier’s international wildlife purchases;
  • Emails showing Kazmaier coordinating with wildlife vendors and discussing permit requirements.

At the time of sentencing, Kazmaier also had to pay a $5,000 fine and a three-year parole period. According to the plea agreement, the fine is expected to be paid to the Endangered Species Joint Fund.

“This fund, which contains the criminal penalties, fines, and forfeits levied under the Lacey Act, is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This account pays rewards to individuals who provide information leading to an arrest, criminal conviction, administrative fine, or forfeiture of property for any violation of the Lacey Act or its provisions, as well as expenses incurred by individuals who provide temporary services. take care of fish, wildlife, or plants prior to the adjudication of any civil or criminal case under the Lacey Act.”

During sentencing, Amarillo federal judge Matthew J. Kachmarik considered various actions for sentencing, including the importation of about 10 bat skulls from Indonesia in November 2011, which were seized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to being could potentially be “rabies vectors”.

Officials also recounted nearly 400 purchases of wildlife items between March 2009 and December 2017 that were sent to West Texas A&M University, with the prosecution emphasizing that the items were “mislabeled” as being for either natural history or for home decoration.

The prosecution went on to say that although some of the items were used for educational purposes, Kazmaier used his position for illegal activities for nearly a decade. At the end of the hearing, officials presented two specimens as part of the verdict, including the skulls of a Eurasian otter and a Eurasian lynx.

However, Benjamin Doyle, Kazmaier’s attorney, argued that because of Kazmaier’s experience in academia and as an environmentalist/conservationist, he should not face jail time. Doyle also emphasized that he made the items available to individuals through his position at West Texas A&M University, rather than selling them to individuals.

In response, the prosecution stated that whether or not the items had a commercial purpose, the law states that it is illegal to import wildlife without a declaration from the authorities.

In his address, Kazmaier said he pleaded guilty, stressing that his understanding of the law had changed over time. He apologized for the violations for which he was convicted.

In a statement provided to MyHighPlains.com by Doyle, he said:

“Doctor. Kazmaier has been a mainstay of society and a champion for wildlife conservation in Texas for decades. We appreciate Judge Kaczmarik’s careful consideration of the facts surrounding this case, and Dr. Kazmaier looks forward to putting this matter behind us.”

Benjamin Doyle

MyHighPlains.com contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas for comment on this story. This story will be updated if entities respond to a request for comment.

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