Man Pleads Guilty to Violating Endangered Species Act


A New York man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to selling a mounted leopard, which is an endangered species.

Michael T. Merisola, 62, of Buffalo pleaded guilty Jan. 29 to one count of violating the Endangered Species Act before U.S. Magistrate Judge Chelsey M. Vascura.

According to his plea, in August 2019, Merisola posted a photograph on his Instagram page that included a mounted leopard in the background. An undercover special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service communicated with Merisola about buying the leopard from the defendant. The two discussed the illegality of buying/selling a leopard across state lines.

Merisola said he wanted $4,200 for the leopard, and the undercover agent traveled from Ohio to Buffalo to see the mounted animal and make a down payment to purchase it. Merisola later accepted the remaining payment and shipped the leopard from New York to Ohio.

Leopards are classified under federal regulations as threatened or endangered wherever they are found.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Marous of the Southern District of Ohio and Trial Attorney Adam C. Cullman from the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division are prosecuting the case.

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