New York - A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Christopher Casacci, 38, of Amherst, New York, with violating the Lacey Act and the U.S. Animal Welfare Act based on his trafficking of African wild cats in interstate commerce, announced Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. for the Western District of New York.

The indictment charges that Casacci, doing business as “Exotic,” imported and sold dozens of caracals (Caracal caracal) and servals (Leptailurus serval) in interstate commerce from February to June of 2018. Caracals, also known as the “desert lynx,” are wild cats native to Africa, and grow to approximately 45 pounds. Servals, also wild cats native to Africa, grow to approximately 40 pounds. Both species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and their commercial possession and sale is restricted under New York state law.

Casacci is also charged with disguising his commercial activity by falsely declaring the animals as domesticated breeds, such as savannah cats and bengal cats, on shipping records.

People and businesses dealing in animals are required to comply with humane care standards under the Animal Welfare Act. Casacci failed to do so, and failed to secure the necessary license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Casacci was charged with violating the Animal Welfare Act for selling animals without a license showing minimum compliance with humane treatment standards.

The indictment is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ryan Noel, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Patrick Duggan and Assistant United States Attorney Aaron J. Mango.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.