By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The owner of an exotic animal breeding business in Florida has been sentenced to five years probation for illegally selling a capuchin monkey to singer Chris Brown.
A federal indictment does not name Brown, only identifying the buyer as a California celebrity, but key details match an Associated Press report that wildlife officers seized the singer’s pet monkey after serving a search warrant at his Los Angeles home in early January 2018. Brown was also identified in court Wednesday during the Florida sentencing hearing for monkey breeder Jimmy Hammonds.
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Wildlife officers moved in after Brown shared a photo of the capuchin monkey with millions of his followers on Instagram. Prosecutors later dropped charges of possessing the monkey without a license after Brown agreed to give up his rights to Fiji and pay $35,000 for the monkey’s care.
As for the monkey breeder, a federal judge in Tampa on Wednesday ordered Hammonds to pay a $90,000 fine to a fund managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. In addition, he must serve eight months of his probation under house arrest.
According to the indictment, Brown paid $12,650 to Hammonds, which operated the Monkey Whisperer Ranch in Parrish, Florida. Under Florida and California law, it is illegal to transfer a capuchin monkey without a permit.
Hammonds pleaded guilty to conspiracy and three counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. Prosecutors said he also illegally sold endangered cotton-head tamarins to buyers in Alabama, South Carolina and Wisconsin while trying to cover up the sales.
Prosecutors had argued that Hammonds deserved more than a year in prison, citing the need to deter others from committing similar crimes.