A Willits man accused of killing a protected leopard in South Africa in 2011 and illegally importing the hunting trophy to the United States was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Adam Thatcher Lawrence, a 38-year-old real estate agent, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of killing the leopard without required permits and then secretly transporting the skin and skull to Mozambique, the spokesman said.
Lawrence is alleged to have traveled to South Africa in August 2011 and hunted and killed the leopard without permits. Leopards are protected under both the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty signed by the United States, South Africa and Mozambique, the spokesman said.
The indictment alleges Lawrence then took the leopard parts to Mozambique in May 2012 and falsely claimed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that he had hunted and killed the leopard there.
He’s accused of then applying to the countries of Mozambique, South Africa and the United States to import the leopard remains to the United States, which he did in April 2013, the spokesman said.
On Thursday, a federal grand jury in Oakland indicted him on charges of importing wildlife contrary to law and mislabeling wildlife intended for importation. In addition to prison, he faces fines totaling $500,000.
He makes an initial court appearance Thursday.
Reached by phone Thursday, Lawrence declined to comment.
The prosecution is the result of a three-year investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 707-568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ppayne.