BUFFALO — An Amherst man has been indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with trafficking in exotic animals.
The indictment, unsealed in U.S. District Court in Buffalo on Friday, charges Christopher Casacci, 38, with violating the Lacey Act and the U.S. Animal Welfare Act. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Federal prosecutors said the charges stem from Casacci's "alleged trafficking of African wild cats in interstate commerce."
According to the indictment, Casacci, doing business as “ExoticCubs.com,” imported and sold dozens of caracals and servals between February and June of 2018.
Caracals, also known as the “desert lynx,” are wild cats, native to Africa, and they are known to 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 New York state law restricts commercial possession and sale.
Casacci is also charged with disguising his activity by falsely claiming the cats were 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. Prosecutors charge that Casacci failed to do that.
They also charge that Casacci failed to secure the necessary licenses from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He is charged with violating the Animal Welfare Act for selling the animals without a license and showing "minimum compliance with humane treatment standards."
Casacci was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was released from custody on conditions imposed by the court.