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Officials: H.B. couple tried to sell tiger skin

Law enforcement agents track local people along with four others allegedly trying to traffick in endangered animals.

July 12, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio

A Huntington Beach couple were charged Thursday with trying to sell the skin of an endangered tiger, according to authorities.

Karim Hanna, 44, and Margarita Licomitros, 36, could face up to a year in federal prison if convicted of offering a Sumatran tiger skin for $8,000 through Craigslist, according to a Department of Justice news release.

U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies working together as part of Operation Wild Web caught the pair, as well as four other people from Southern California, according to the release. The operation aimed to stop the illegal sales of endangered species and animal parts online.

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Rene De La Peza, 42, of Hacienda Heights, was accused of selling a jaguar skin for $15,000 on Craigslist and could face up to a year in prison.

Michael Roy McIntire, 59, of Encino, and Rodrigo Macedo, 29, of Hesperia, were accused of selling migratory birds — specifically a canvasback, a cinnamon teal, a mallard and Western scrub jays — and could face up to six months in prison.

Lewis Keister, 42, of Hancock Park, was charged with illegal wildlife trafficking in connection with the sale of a pair of seal fur moccasins. He could face five years in prison.

In the Hanna and Licomitros case, on Aug. 2, a volunteer from the International Fund for Animal Welfare found the tiger skin advertised on Craigslist for $10,000, U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Ed Newcomer Jr. wrote in his criminal complaint.

From Aug. 8 to 10, Special Agent Jesica Espinoza responded to the ad undercover and communicated by email with a person named "Hanna."

Hanna told Espinoza that "the tiger skin was from a Sumatran tiger killed in 1927" and that such animals are "very rare and almost extinct," Newcomer wrote.

On Aug. 9, Espinoza emailed Hanna from her work account that "tigers are endangered and that selling a tiger skin would violate the Endangered Species Act," according to the complaint.

Hanna continued to try selling the tiger skin, posting a second ad on Aug. 10 for a taxidermy tiger skin rug with a head mount for $5,000, Newcomer wrote.

According to the complaint, Newcomer, while undercover, responded Aug. 13 to the second post, saying he was in Las Vegas and would be in Los Angeles later that week and would need to see the item before buying it.

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