Florida Man Known As “The Monkey Whisperer” Sentenced For Trafficking Protected Primates

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Tampa, Florida –U.S. District Judge William F. Jung has sentenced Jimmy Wayne Hammonds, aka “the Monkey Whisperer” (58, Parrish), to five years’ probation, to include eight months home confinement, for one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and three counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. As part of his sentence, the Court also ordered Hammonds to pay a $90,000 fine to the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service Lacey Act Reward Fund. Hammonds had pleaded guilty on March 2, 2022.

According to court records, Hammonds owned and operated The Monkey Whisperer, LLC, a business engaged in the breeding and selling of wildlife. From September 2017 until February 2018, Hammonds conspired to sell a capuchin monkey to a celebrity client in California, even though that buyer could not lawfully possess a capuchin monkey in California. Hammonds facilitated the transportation of the capuchin monkey from Florida to California through individuals who were not permitted to possess a capuchin monkey in either state. The client paid over $12,000 for the animal. Law enforcement later seized that capuchin monkey from the client’s California residence.

In addition, Hammonds illegally sold cotton-top tamarins, which are primates listed as an endangered species, to buyers in Alabama, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. To conceal his unlawful wildlife trafficking, Hammonds submitted false records to a law enforcement officer and attempted to persuade a witness to lie to a law enforcement officer by saying that they had purchased the cotton-top tamarins at a flea market. Hammonds had been previously convicted in Florida state court for similar conduct in 2012.

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“In a number of states, it is illegal to buy, sell and own exotic pets,” said Edward Grace, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director of the Office of Law Enforcement. “The illegal wildlife trade jeopardizes the future for many species, and we thank the U.S. Department of Justice, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for their work on this case.”

This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lisa M. Thelwell.

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