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Florida's 'Monkey Whisperer' sentenced for trafficking protected primates

As part of his sentence, Jimmy Hammonds must spend eight months in home confinement and pay a $90,000 fine to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife.
Credit: Adobe Stock

TAMPA, Fla. — The Florida man who self-identified as "the Monkey Whisperer," has been sentenced to five years probation, including home confinement, for illegally transporting and selling primates, according to the Department of Justice. 

Jimmy Hammonds, 58 of Parrish, pleaded guilty in March to violating the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act and faced up to eight years in prison. 

Instead, the court sentenced him to five years probation, which includes eight months of home confinement. Additionally, he was ordered to pay a $90,000 fine to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lacey Act Reward Fund. 

According to court records, Hammonds, who owned The Monkey Whisperer, LLC, was in the business of breeding and selling wildlife. 

Records say from September 2017 through February 2018, he conspired to sell a capuchin monkey to a celebrity in California. Hammonds even facilitated the transportation of the monkey from Florida to California. 

However, according to the court, no one in either state is legally allowed to own a capuchin monkey. 

The celebrity, who PETA identified as Chris Brown, paid more than $12,000 for the monkey, according to a release. 

“In a number of states, it is illegal to buy, sell and own exotic pets,” Edward Grace, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director of the Office of Law Enforcement said in a statement. “The illegal wildlife trade jeopardizes the future for many species, and we thank the U.S. Department of Justice, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for their work on this case.”

Hammonds also illegally sold cotton-top tamarins, an endangered species, to buyers in Alabama, South Carolina and Wisconsin. To get away with the crime, the court says he gave fake records to a law enforcement officer and tried to get a witness to lie to authorities by saying they had bought the tamarins at a flea market. 

Hammonds was convicted in Florida state court in 2012 for similar conduct.

"This brazen career criminal got off easy, but the conviction alone should be enough to keep him out of the monkey-exploitation business as long as federal officials do their jobs and revoke his federal Animal Welfare Act license," PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott said in a statement. "PETA is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to use this case as a jumping-off point to relentlessly pursue the other Hammondses [sic] of the world and hold them accountable for trafficking animals for a buck."  

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