Tuesday, October 03, 2006

No, really, I'm just happy to see you.

Police: Men smuggled monkeys in pants; also leopard cubs, orchids, birds of paradise

By Lisa Sweetingham, Court TV Tue Sep 19, 5:42 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (Court TV) - When the rare birds of paradise escaped from his suitcase and flew over the heads of U.S. Customs Agents at Los Angeles International Airport, Robert Cusack decided it was best to confess that, yes, he did have more to declare.

"I have monkeys in my pants," Cusack told the agents.

Cusack, 49, had just gotten off a plane from Thailand and was immediately taken into custody.

Two endangered slow loris pygmy monkeys were rescued from Cusack's underwear.

For attempting to smuggle four birds of paradise, two lorises and 50 rare orchids into the United States on June 13, 2002, Cusack served five and a half months in prison and paid $1,200 in fines.

But Cusack wasn't alone.

His traveling companion, Chris Edward Mulloy, allegedly sneaked two newborn Asian leopard cats past the customs agents.

Authorities believe Mulloy, 45, hid the felines in hand-carried luggage, checked into a nearby hotel, and called his sister Darlah Kaye Mulloy to ask for her help in getting rid of the contraband cats.

On Monday, Chris Mulloy was arrested by federal authorities in Palm Springs on four counts of illegally importing wildlife, receiving, concealing and transporting wildlife, and making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

He will be arraigned next week and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Darlah Mulloy, 48, has not been arrested, but was named along with her brother in a February grand jury indictment on two counts of illegally receiving, concealing, and transporting wildlife, and attempting to obstruct justice and tamper with a witness.

Authorities said they were aided by a tipster in their four-year investigation.

A spokesman from the U.S. Attorney's off ice, Thom Mrozek, says Darlah Mulloy's son gave one of the leopards to a former girlfriend, who lives in Foothill Ranch, Orange County.

"She still has it. It's kind of skittish. She's been caring for it for three years now so we don't want to disturb it more than necessary," Mrozek said, adding that they are currently searching for a suitable - and legal - home for the wildcat.

The other leopard cat journeyed from Mulloy's luggage to a friend who was unable to care for it, and ultimately on to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Texas, where Mrozek says it is being cared for by a wildlife facility.

The lorises, Mrozek says, found a home at the Los Angeles County Zoo. But the four birds of paradise all died.

"That is a not uncommon result of wildlife smuggling," Mrozek said. "These animals die all the time because of the stress of being stuffed into a box and smuggled in. The birds, I think it was the stress of the very long travel and who knows what kind of shape they were in."

While Cusack's monkey-in-pants method might seem bizarre, it's not so far-fetched.

"We had a guy who did it with snakes about eight or nine years ago coming in from Mexico," Mrozek says. "You name it, it's been done."

Smuggling rare animals and plants into the country undermines conservation efforts, and the potential economic and ecological consequences can be devastating, Mrozek says.

"In some cases, we're talking about animals that potentially carry diseases like avian flu," Mrozek says. "We did a case a number of years ago in which animals were affected with Exotic Newcastle disease - and that can wipe out an entire industry."

They've also confiscated snakeheads - a type of top-predator fish that can live for short periods on land.

"They will eat everything, so they will decimate the ecology of any body of water they're in," Mrozek says. "There are all kinds of potentially extraordinary problems we face with wildlife smuggling."

Honestly, I am just frustrated that the headline implied that ALL of the animals were in his pants at once and they weren't.

And as for those "slow" loris monkeys, I can't help but feel those little guys were moving pretty fast.

Incidentally, I heard this story on Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me and in order to find the text I typed the following into Google: "monkeys in my pants news" I might add that when I typed "monkeys in my pants" I did NOT find the news article.

Final thought: How the hell did I miss this when it happened?

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