AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Richard Kazmaier, a former West Texas A&M University biology professor, was sentenced to six months in federal prison during a Tuesday hearing in Amarillo Federal Court. This comes after Kazmaier pleaded guilty in August 2022 to one count of “Lacey Act Trafficking,” related to incidents between March 2017 and February 2020.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Kazmaier imported more than 350 wildlife items into the United States worth more than $14,400 from online sellers around the world within seven years. This included countries like:
- Czech republic;
- South Africa;
- United Kingdom;
The plea agreement and factual resume, which were filed in August 2022, focused on 14 specific incidents between March 2017 and February 2020 where Kazmaier imported the following wildlife without declaring the items to customs authorities or obtaining the necessary permits:
- Golden Jackal – March 2, 2017;
- Caracal – March 5, 2017;
- Eurasian otter – May 6, 2017;
- Vervet monkey – May 18, 2017
- Red-billed leiothrix – July 24, 2017;
- Chinese hwamei – August 11, 2017;
- Crab-eating fox – Oct. 8, 2017;
- Masked palm civet – Nov. 4, 2017;
- Mountain weasels – Feb. 1, 2018;
- King bird-of-paradise – Feb. 5, 2018;
- African harrier hawk – Feb. 5, 2018;
- Greater naked-tailed armadillo, Oct. 28, 2018;
- Horsfield’s treeshrews – Aug. 8, 2019
“Kazmaier knew that wildlife merchandise brought into the United States must be declared to customs authorities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He was further aware that wildlife protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora required additional import and/or export permits before they could be traded internationally,” the factual resume read. “He knew that wildlife listed in the CITIES treaty were threatened with extinction or could become threatened if their international trade was not restricted.”
The documents at the time read that Kazmaier purchased these items with his own funds and stored them at West Texas A&M University. He reportedly did not resell any of the items, but traded or gave some of the wildlife to other professors, students and collectors. In a statement provided to MyHighPlains.com in late September 2020, officials with West Texas A&M University said that Kazmaier is no longer an employee of the university.
According to the factual resume, the prosecution had collected various evidence prior to Kazmaier pleading guilty to the charge, including:
- Online sales records;
- Banking history;
- Shipping information detailing Kazmaier’s international wildlife purchases;
- Email messages that show how Kazmaier coordinated with the sellers on shipping the wildlife and discussed the permit requirements.
During the sentencing, Kazmaier was also required to pay a $5,000 fine along with a three-year period of supervised release. According to the plea agreement, the fine is expected to be paid to the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund.
“This fund, containing criminal fines, penalties and forfeitures collected pursuant to the Lacey Act, is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Rewards are paid from this account to persons who furnish information that leads to an arrest, criminal conviction, civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property for any violation of the Lacey Act or its regulations, as well as the costs incurred by persons who provide temporary care for fish, wildlife, or plants pending the disposition of any civil or criminal Lacey Act proceeding.”
During the sentencing, Amarillo Federal Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk considered various conduct for the sentencing, including the importation of around 10 bat skulls from Indonesia in November 2011 that was seized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of the potential of them being “vectors of rabies.”
Officials also spoke about the nearly 400 purchases of wildlife items between March 2009 and December 2017 that were shipped to West Texas A&M University, with the prosecution stressing that the items were “mislabeled” to be either for natural history or home decoration.
The prosecution went on to say that while some of the items were used for educational purposes, Kazmaier used his position to pursue illegal activity for almost a decade. At the end of the hearing, officials presented two specimens as part of the sentencing, including the skulls of the eurasian otter and the eurasian lynx.
However, Benjamin Doyle, Kazmaier’s lawyer, argued that because of Kazmaier’s background in academia and as an environmentalist/conservationist, he should not face jail time. Doyle also stressed that he made the items available to individuals through his position at West Texas A&M University, not selling them to individuals.
In response, the prosecution argued that regardless if the items had a commercial purpose, the law dictates that it is illegal to import wildlife items without declaring them to authorities.
In his allocution, Kazmaier said he acknowledged his wrongdoing, stressing that his understanding of the law changed over time. He did apologize for the violations he was convicted of.
In a statement provided to MyHighPlains.com by Doyle, he said:
“Dr. Kazmaier has been a pillar of the community and champion for wildlife conservation efforts in Texas for decades. We appreciate Judge Kacsmaryk’s thoughtful consideration of the facts associated with this case and Dr. Kazmaier looks forward to putting this matter behind him.”Benjamin Doyle
MyHighPlains.com has reached out to officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas for comment on this story. This story will be updated if the entities respond to the request for comment.