‘Pregnant’ woman delivers monkey to authorities

December 10, 2008

(ChattahBox) — A Washington woman who was convicted of violating wildlife laws for smuggling a monkey into the United States, prosecutors said Tuesday. But it was the way she did it that amazed authorities. She hid the young sedated rhesus macaque monkey under a fake womb with a loose-fitting blouse on a flight from Bangkok, Thailand, to Los Angeles, California, International Airport, pretending she was pregnant.

Gypsy Lawson, 28, and her mother, Fran Ogren, 56, were convicted of smuggling and conspiracy to smuggle the monkey in violation of the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws. Co-defendant James Edward Pratt, 34, already has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of possession and transportation of prohibited wildlife. He will be sentenced in January.

Sentencing for Lawson and Ogren is scheduled for March 3, 2009. The smuggling conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of court supervision after release. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of court supervision after release.

Permits are required to possess rhesus monkeys and many other species of animals. Such permits are granted for research, enhancement and conservation purposes. Additionally, transporting such species into the United States requires a customs declaration. Lawson and Ogren had neither.

“These defendants purposely undertook a course of action which could well have endangered many citizens, as well as the life of the animal in question,” said U.S. Attorney James McDevitt.

Rhesus monkeys are known to carry viruses and parasites that can be transmitted to humans, said Paul Chang, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent.

“This particular animal tested negative,” he said.

Chang said the monkey has been placed with a rescue center for abandoned primates, “but it could have been living out its life with its family in its native habitat.”


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