Officials: H.B. couple tried to sell tiger skin

A Huntington Beach couple were charged Thursday with trying to sell the skin of an endangered tiger, according to authorities.

Karim Hanna, 44, and Margarita Licomitros, 36, could face up to a year in federal prison if convicted of offering a Sumatran tiger skin for $8,000 through Craigslist, according to a Department of Justice news release.

U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies working together as part of Operation Wild Web caught the pair, as well as four other people from Southern California, according to the release. The operation aimed to stop the illegal sales of endangered species and animal parts online.

Rene De La Peza, 42, of Hacienda Heights, was accused of selling a jaguar skin for $15,000 on Craigslist and could face up to a year in prison.

Michael Roy McIntire, 59, of Encino, and Rodrigo Macedo, 29, of Hesperia, were accused of selling migratory birds — specifically a canvasback, a cinnamon teal, a mallard and Western scrub jays — and could face up to six months in prison.

Lewis Keister, 42, of Hancock Park, was charged with illegal wildlife trafficking in connection with the sale of a pair of seal fur moccasins. He could face five years in prison.

In the Hanna and Licomitros case, on Aug. 2, a volunteer from the International Fund for Animal Welfare found the tiger skin advertised on Craigslist for $10,000, U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Ed Newcomer Jr. wrote in his criminal complaint.

From Aug. 8 to 10, Special Agent Jesica Espinoza responded to the ad undercover and communicated by email with a person named "Hanna."

Hanna told Espinoza that "the tiger skin was from a Sumatran tiger killed in 1927" and that such animals are "very rare and almost extinct," Newcomer wrote.

On Aug. 9, Espinoza emailed Hanna from her work account that "tigers are endangered and that selling a tiger skin would violate the Endangered Species Act," according to the complaint.

Hanna continued to try selling the tiger skin, posting a second ad on Aug. 10 for a taxidermy tiger skin rug with a head mount for $5,000, Newcomer wrote.

According to the complaint, Newcomer, while undercover, responded Aug. 13 to the second post, saying he was in Las Vegas and would be in Los Angeles later that week and would need to see the item before buying it.

Newcomer and Special Agent Erin Dean, both undercover, met with Hanna and Licomitros on Aug. 16 at their home in Huntington Beach, where the two agents checked the tiger skin.

Licomitros asked Newcomer if he was an agent and said that if he was, he was "required by law to tell her," Newcomer wrote.

Newcomer offered to pay $6,000 for the tiger skin but agreed to $8,000 after Licomitros declined the initial offer. The agent told the couple he would return the next day with the cash.

During the morning of Aug. 17, Licomitros called Newcomer and told him to pay for the item with gold instead because she was afraid he was an agent, he wrote.

That afternoon, the agent exchanged the cash for the tiger skin inside the Huntington Beach house. As Hanna brought a large container out to Newcomer's car, California Department of Fish and Wildlife agents and game wardens approached, Newcomer wrote.

After the couple were read their Miranda rights, Hanna told the federal agent, "I told you it was illegal to sell," while Licomitros told Newcomer, "I told you to bring us [expletive] gold."

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