SANTA ANA, California May 20, 2019 – A man who broke into the Santa Ana Zoo after hours and stole North America’s oldest-living ring-tailed lemur in captivity to keep the endangered animal as a pet has agreed to plead guilty to a federal criminal charge.
Aquinas Kasbar, 19, of Newport Beach, has agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of unlawfully taking an endangered species. The charge carries a statutory maximum penalty of one year in federal prison and a $100,000 fine. Kasbar’s initial court appearance has been scheduled for May 28 in United States District Court in Santa Ana.
According to his plea agreement filed today, on July 27, 2018, Kasbar broke into the Santa Ana Zoo after it had closed for the day. While in the zoo, Kasbar used bolt cutters to cut a hole in the zoo’s enclosure for lemurs and capuchin monkeys, which enabled several of the animals to escape, though they were later recovered, according to court documents.
Kasbar admitted in his plea agreement to stealing Isaac, a 32-year-old, ring-tailed lemur (lemur catta), and North America’s oldest ring-tailed lemur in captivity. (The life span of a lemur typically is 20 to 25 years.) The ring-tailed lemur is on a list of the 25 most endangered primates, and ring-tailed lemurs are endangered, in part, because of the illegal pet trade, according to the plea agreement.
After stealing Isaac, Kasbar placed the animal in a plastic drawer that lacked ventilation holes, court papers state. The next day, Kasbar abandoned Isaac in front of a Newport Beach hotel, leaving him in the same plastic drawer with two notes placed on it, which read, “Lemur (with tracker)” and “This belongs to the Santa Ana Zoo it was taken last night please bring it to police,” the plea agreement states. Kasbar’s actions resulted in a loss to the Santa Ana Zoo of approximately $8,486, court papers state.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Newport Beach Police Department, and the Santa Ana Police Department.
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel H. Ahn of the Santa Ana Branch Office and Erik M. Silber of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.