Alligator gar have a bad reputation in Texas: scaly, ornery, and ugly, they look like a creature straight from the Cretaceous Period. But one Florida man recently received nine months in prison for pulling four gar from the Trinity River and shipping them to Japan.
Loren Willis, 63, was sentenced to nine months in federal prison for his part in the scheme in a Lufkin courthouse Thursday by U. S. District Judge Ron Clark, according to Jessica Cooley of the Lufkin Daily News. He was prosecuted under the Lacey Act, a statute that makes a federal crime of any illegal import, export, or sale of protected wildlife. According to a criminal complaint filed, he sold the gar, live, to a customer in Tokyo, Japan, where a lucrative market for so-called “monster fish” exists.
Willis was busted as part of a nine month investigation by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Fish and WIldlife Service. Willis was ultimately caught when he attempted to buy thousands of baby gar from undercover agents in a sting operations. His two co-defendants pled guilty prior to trial.
“One of our highest priorities is to investigate individuals and companies that are involved in the unlawful commercial trafficking and smuggling of our Nation’s fish and wildlife,” Special Agent in Charge Nicholas Chavez told the Lufkin Daily News. “The successful outcome of this investigation is also the result of working jointly with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to ensure the protection of a state protected species.”
According to an affidavit filed with the court, Willis had sent an e-mail to an acquaintance reading “The gars made it to Japan and i good shape. time to smoke those Bourbon Street Cigars.”