Temple of Isis
Great Cats of the World
9 people charged, 6 for selling an endangered species; 3 for smuggling federally protected animals - all violations of the endangered species act
August 1, 2006
(Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife)The
U.S. Attorney in Portland has charged five people with
selling an endangered species and three others will be paying fines for smuggling
federally protected animals. The case involves the ocelot, a rare cat that
looks like a small leopard.
A new age spiritual organization, Temple Isis in California, founded and owned by
A significant part of this case was the perspective of the falsifications and the effort to cover up the sale.
A corporation called Great Cats of the World based in Cave Junction, Oregon, was also charged with an illegal purchase of an ocelot. It entered a plea bargain and will pay a $10,000 fine.
Only one defendant,
Temple of Isis also known as Isis Oasis Sanctuary and Isis Society for Inspirational Studies, Inc., founded by Loroen Vigne was charged with selling endangered ocelots, Conspiring to violate the Endangered Species Act, illegal sale of 6 ocelots The organization entered a plea agreement admitting its participation in the charged conspiracy and that it took steps to cover up the sales by agreeing with purchasers to mischaracterized the sales as "donations" and has further agreed to plead guilty as charged. The prosecution is recommending to the Court that the Temple of Isis be fined $60,000, twice the value of the illegally sold ocelots and be placed on federal probation for 2 years. The next court date is 1/4/07
(Temple of Isis founder, Loroen Vigne, Photo courtesy of Temple of Isis webpage)
Great Cats of the World of Cave Junction, OR, formerly known as Center for Endangered Cats of Columbia Heights, MN illegally purchased endangered ocelots and falsified a federal form in violation of the Eng angered Species Act. They entered a plea agreement to plead guilty, admit that it purchased an ocelot illegally and admits that it took steps to cover up the sale, falsifying a federal form to claim the sale was a "donation. They also agree to forfeit the illegally purchased ocelot. The prosecution will recommend a fine of $10,000 and that they be placed on federal probation for 1 year.
Glenn Donnelly of NY, alleges he purchased 2 ocelots from Deborah Walding in April 2002 in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act which makes it illegal to receive or transport an animal sold in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Donnelly allegedly also falsified a federal form by claiming that the sale was a "donation". Donnelly's jury trial is set for 11/28/06
Amelia Rasmussen of Nixon, TX purchased 2 ocelots from the Temple of Isis and falsified a federal form claiming that the ocelots had been "donated" to her, when in fact she paid thousands of dollars for the ocelots in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Rasmussen entered a plea agreement whereby she agrees to plead guilty as charged and admits that she purchased the ocelots illegally, and further that she took steps to cover up the sale by falsifying a federal form, claiming the sale was a "donation". The prosecutor has agreed to recommend that Rasmussen pay a fine of $25,000 and be placed on federal probation for 1 years.
Deborah Walding of Portland, OR sold & transported 2 ocelots in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act. Walding was convicted of illegal ocelot trafficking in 2005.
Konstantin Lyavdansky of Kingston, PA sold a coat made of ocelot fur on ebay to Deborah Walding. Lyavdansky was fined $2,075.
Jeannette Giacinto of Tarzana, CA, illegally delivered an ocelot from California to Washington . Giacinto was fined $525.00
Collette Griffiths of Vancouver, WA was fined $525.00 for illegal transportation of an ocelot from California to Washington.
The investigation known as "Operation Cat Tale" uncovered an aggressive nationwide effort to sell endangered animals illegally and cover up the illegal sales through lies and deceit. Gifts of endangered species are not barred by law, but by completing a federally-required form stating the animal was a gift when it was in fact sold made it a crime. Each of the ocelots were sold for thousands of dollars, many at a cost of $5,000 per animal.
2 of the ocelots, died while under the care of the purchasers, although no claims of mistreatment are alleged. 5 ocelots have been or will be seized by the US Fish & Wildlife Services. There are as few as 70 ocelots know to remain in the wild in the USA. Most are living on the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in South Texas. Ocelots are listed as endangered species in Texas, Central & South America, mostly as a result of habitat destruction and illegal trafficking in pelts.
Ocelots have been listed as endangered since 1972. The ESA establishes a near-total ban on the sale of endangered animals. The purpose of the blanket prohibition is to end the commercialization of endangered species. When animals or animal parts are sold - the commercialization encourages the development of a black market for the animals and parts, which in turn creates further incentives for poachers to illegally take endangered species from their habitat. The endangered species act is critical in our effort to save treasures like the ocelot and protect biodiversity. For example, the bald eagle, faced the threat of extinction, now the bald eagles are thriving throughout the USA.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Temple of Isis webpage
US Attorney's Office
US District Court Records