COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Cincinnati man who paid $3,000 for a tiger skin rug pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to violating the Endangered Species Act.
According to court documents, in August 2018, Ryan J. Gibbs, 44, of Cincinnati, contacted a man in the United Kingdom about buying a tiger skin rug. The man told Gibbs he could not legally ship a tiger skin to the United States, but knew someone in Minnesota who had tiger skins.
Gibbs started emailing and calling the person, who was actually an undercover Special Agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and said he wanted to buy a tiger skin and a mounted flamingo. Gibbs and the agent discussed the illegality of buying and selling tiger parts across state lines. Gibbs and the agent met near Jeffersonville, Ohio in December 2018 where Gibbs bought three mounted birds – a tufted puffin, a horned puffin and a flamingo for a total of $1,200.
Over the next several months, Gibbs and the agent communicated intermittently about the tiger skin. Gibbs and the agent met again near Jeffersonville in August 2019 where Gibbs paid $3,000 for the tiger skin.
The plea agreement requires Gibbs to serve one year of probation and perform 80 hours of community service. If possible, the community service should be directed toward assistant a non-profit or governmental organization in Ohio working on wildlife conservation. The agreement also calls for Gibbs to pay $100,000 to the Lacey Act Reward Account. Gibbs also agreed to abandon a stuffed lion, two stuffed puffins, a panther skin and a sawfish rostrum which he owns.
The Code of Federal Regulations lists tigers (panthera tigris) as endangered wherever they are found.
David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice Environmental and Natural Resources Division; Erryl Wolgemuth, Supervisor with the US Fish and Wildlife Service; and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien announced the plea entered today before Senior U.S. District Judge James L. Graham.
Special Assistant United States Attorney J. Michael Marous and Adam C. Cullman, Trial Attorney with the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, are representing the United States in this case.