Breeder known as ‘Monkey Whisperer’ convicted of illegally selling primate to singer Chris Brown

This is the end of this monkey story.

A black market animal breeder who called himself the ‘Monkey Whisperer’ has been sentenced to eight months in house arrest after he was caught illegally selling a capuchin monkey to famed R&B singer Chris Brown.

The investigation into Hammonds began in 2017 when PETA activists spotted videos of Brown’s daughter and the newly acquired pet monkey on the singer’s Instagram page and alerted wildlife officials.

The investigation revealed that Hammonds, 58, of Parrish, Florida, sold the monkey, named Fiji, to Brown for $12,650 and then shipped the animal from Florida to California, without obtaining a license and using a unlicensed courier, prosecutors said.

It is also illegal to own a capuchin in California without a license, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Brown was therefore charged with two misdemeanors after turning the monkey over to authorities. He later made a deal to avoid jail time by paying the cost of caring for the monkey at a sanctuary and agreeing to stay out of trouble for six months.

Hammonds attorney Gary Ostrow said his client believed he was selling the capuchin to a legitimate buyer in Nevada, where it’s legal to own capuchins, but only learned halfway through. the transaction that the animal’s ultimate purchaser was Brown. . When asked about the sale later, prosecutors said Hammond lied to investigators about what he knew about Brown being the real buyer.

“It’s privileged, self-proclaimed people like Chris Brown who think they can buy a monkey for their entertainment, who cast a real shadow over what is otherwise a legitimate business run by people who really love animals,” he said. Ostrow.

A message sent to representatives for Brown was not immediately returned.

The “Run it!” and the “Kiss Kiss” singer has remained controversial for much of his career since pleading guilty in 2009 to felony assault and serving six months for beating up his then-girlfriend, the singer Rihanna.

Suspicious simian sales

Further investigation into Hammonds’ affairs revealed numerous records showing that he had illegally sold primates to customers across the country. Between 2012 and 2017, prosecutors say he earned more than $1 million from those sales.

“Hammonds’ history shows that he was involved in illicit wildlife trafficking for his own financial gain for years,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.

Hammonds operated a primate breeding business in Florida called The Monkey Whisperer, LLC, and was accused of regularly selling the animals, some of which are listed as endangered species, on the black market without proper permits.

Prosecutors say records showed Hammonds was illegally selling endangered white-headed tamarins to buyers in Alabama, South Carolina and Wisconsin. In one instance, they say Hammonds tried to convince a buyer to lie to authorities that she had acquired the monkeys at a flea market and they later died.

Hammonds’ lawyer said his client admitted he made mistakes, but more importantly he was a law-abiding animal keeper who made a legitimate living.

“They paint a picture of a guy who is the Al Capone of the black market animal trade, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Ostrow said. “Jimmy Hammonds loves animals and takes care of them better than most breeders.”

Hammonds had previously been convicted in Florida state court in 2012 of illegally transporting monkeys without proper permits.

In the most recent case, Hammonds pleaded guilty in April to violating the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. In addition to eight months of house arrest, Hammond was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $90,000 fine.

In a statement, PETA said the penalty amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.

“This brazen career criminal got away with it easily, but the conviction alone should be enough to keep him away from ape exploitation as long as federal officials do their job and revoke his license under the federal animal welfare law,” the group said.

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