An Anaheim man was sentenced Wednesday to four months in County Jail for trafficking in bear gall bladders that can bring up to $1,000 an ounce on the black market.
The sentence, which attorneys agreed was stiff, should send a message to anyone who sells wild animals or wild animal parts that they will be punished, prosecutor Valerie Griswold said.
Trafficking in bear parts, she said, has become a particular problem in the past two decades. Gall bladders are especially popular in some Asian communities, she said, where they are considered an aphrodisiac and medicinal.
Jonathan Charles Schulte, 32, pleaded guilty to the trafficking charge Wednesday in Municipal Court in Santa Ana. He was also ordered to serve three years on probation. Schulte faced a maximum of three years in a state prison.
Deputy Public Defender Robert Knox had argued Schulte should serve no jail time, and said the sentence was too stiff.
"I thought it was a harsh, high sentence for a person like Mr. Schulte, who has no prior record and never did anything wrong in his life," Knox said.
Griswold said the bladders apparently came from bears that were lawfully hunted in Canada. They were shipped to Wyoming, where shipment within the state is not a crime, then brought to California.
Schulte told investigators he planned to sell 12 bladders in Little Saigon and Chinatown.
Possession of two or more bear bladders in this state violates California's Fish and Game Code, and is a felony. State wildlife officials were tipped about the shipment by their counterparts in Wyoming.