SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ An upstate New York company involved in a nationwide scheme to buy and sell rare, endangered ocelots has pleaded guilty to federal charges in Oregon.
Finger Lakes International Inc. admitted violating the Endangered Species Act by buying and transporting two ocelots, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
The company admitted illegally buying the animals for commercial use and prosecutors in Portland agreed to drop similar charges against company owner Glenn Donnelly.
Donnelly, of Weedsport, is the co-founder of DIRT Motorsports and the former owner of the Cayuga County Fairgrounds.
He was indicted last year in connection with a nationwide ring selling the rare cats. Authorities charged that Donnelly knowingly purchased two ocelots in Oregon and moved them to New York in April 2002, a federal crime.
Donnelly was also accused of creating a fraudulent document stating the cats were donated to him, which would have been legal under federal law.
As the successor company after DIRT was sold, Finger Lakes International agreed in U.S. District Court on Sept. 13 to plead guilty to a misdemeanor that can carry a maximum fine of $200,000 and 18 months probation. Judge Michael Mosman scheduled sentencing for Dec. 3.
All charges against Donnelly, who is chief executive officer of Finger Lakes International, were dropped.
Donnelly had a history of keeping exotic animals on his property, including a caged bear that mauled a 22-year-old woman in 2004.
Donnelly could not be located for comment.
The Finger Lakes plea was the last in an investigation known as “Operation Cat Tale,” said Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Joan Jewett. Six other pleas led to fines and community service penalties totaling more than $100,000, she said.
The ocelot is an endangered, mid-sized cat found in Central and South America. In the United States, as few as 80 to 100 remain in the wild, according to the agency. Most of those live on the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.