Monkey seller to LA celebrity sentenced to probation

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – The owner of an exotic pet breeding business in Florida has been sentenced to five years probation for illegally selling a capuchin monkey to singer Chris Brown.

A federal indictment doesn’t name Brown, only identifying the buyer as a California celebrity, but key details match an Associated Press report that wildlife agents confiscated the singer’s pet monkey after issuing a search warrant at his home in early January 2018 had served in Los Angeles. Brown was identified in court Wednesday at the sentencing hearing in Florida for monkey breeder Jimmy Hammonds.

Wildlife agents moved in after Brown shared a picture of the capuchin monkey with millions of his followers on Instagram. Prosecutors later dropped charges of possessing the monkey without a permit after Brown agreed to relinquish his rights to Fiji and pay $35,000 to care for the monkey.

As for the monkey breeder, a federal judge in Tampa on Wednesday ordered Hammonds to pay a $90,000 fine to a fund operated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. He also has to serve eight months of his probation under house arrest.

According to the indictment, Brown paid $12,650 to Hammonds, who ran Monkey Whisperer Ranch in Parrish, Florida. It is illegal under both Florida and California law to transfer a capuchin monkey without a permit.

Hammonds pleaded guilty to conspiracy and three counts of violations of the Endangered Species Act. Prosecutors said he also illegally sold endangered cotton-top tamarins to buyers in Alabama, South Carolina and Wisconsin while trying to cover up the sales.

Prosecutors had argued Hammonds deserved more than a year in prison, citing the need to deter others from committing similar crimes.

“In addition to licensed money breeding activities, the Hammonds frequently sold monkeys on the black market,” court documents say.

Hammonds’ attorney described him as a “hard-working, law-abiding member of the community” who helped people cope with alcohol addiction and said none of the monkeys were mistreated or caused “adverse effects” on affected ecosystems.

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