SHERMAN, Texas – After just over 3 hours of deliberations, a federal jury in Sherman found a Calvin, Oklahoma man guilty of committing Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act violations in connection with the shipment of an African Leopard trophy mount from Oklahoma to the Eastern District of Texas yesterday, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.
Steven Michael Seibert, 56, is owner-operator of Triple S Wildlife Ranch near Calvin, Oklahoma. Seibert offers guided hunts of domestic and exotic wildlife on this 3,000 acre, high fenced, ranch. Seibert also commercially trades in taxidermy via his website “Wildlife Creations”.
In August of 2012 Agents with U.S. Fish and Wildlife learned that Seibert was offering a full body mount, African Leopard trophy for sale on his website for $3,995.00. African Leopards are listed as an endangered Species under the Endangered Species Act and therefore it is unlawful to offer them for sale in interstate commerce. Fish and Wildlife agents had been in contact with Seibert on previous occasions regarding his international shipments of taxidermy wildlife and so the agents knew that Seibert was aware of the restrictions on trading in endangered species.
Agents contacted Seibert in an undercover capacity posing as Denton, Texas resident interested in purchasing the leopard mount. Seibert told the “buyer” that although the leopard trophy was in his inventory in Oklahoma, he could sell the leopard to a Texan so long as they could “keep it straight” that the leopard was actually being sold by another Texas resident in Bonham. On August 13, 2012, Seibert’s delivery driver delivered the leopard to the undercover agent at a self-storage unit in Denton, Texas. The driver also presented an invoice that indicated that the seller was a Bonham, Texas resident. When questioned by agents, the driver advised that Seibert had instructed him to tell “anyone who asked” that the leopard had come from Bonham, Texas. Agents called Seibert and claimed that they had just learned about the leopard transaction and asked him explain it. Seibert claimed that the leopard had come from Bonham, Texas and had “never left Texas.” Agents knew this to be false because they had conducted surveillance on the delivery truck from the ranch in Oklahoma all the way to Denton, Texas.
Seibert testified at trial that the leopard he sold to the undercover agent was actually owned by the Bonham resident who had purchased it at an auction in Ft. Worth, Texas in 2011. Seibert told the jury that he was only “helping” the Bonham man sell the leopard. However, the Bonham resident told the jury that it was Seibert who had purchased the leopard at the Ft. Worth auction and that he had no financial interest in it whatsoever. The government offered evidence that the leopard purchased at the Ft. Worth auction was actually a different leopard and that the leopard Seibert had sold to the undercover agent had been at Seibert’s hunting lodge since at least January of 2010.
The jury also found that the false invoice Seibert had prepared was a Lacey Act violation. The Lacey Act prohibits the use of a false label in connection with the sale of wildlife in interstate commerce.
Seibert is facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine. A sentencing date has not been set.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement in Ft. Worth, Texas, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Noble.