Florida man known as ‘The Monkey Whisperer’ arrested for illegally selling primates

TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida man known as “The Monkey Whisperer” is accused of illegally selling primates, violations of the Endangered Species Act, and witness tampering, prosecutors said.

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The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida said Jimmy Wayne Hammonds, 57, owner of The Monkey Whisperer, illegally sold a capuchin monkey to a buyer in California, as well as selling endangered cotton-top tamarins to buyers in Wisconsin, Alabama and South Carolina.

In 2017, Hammonds transported a $12,650 capuchin monkey from Florida to California, to a person who was not licensed to own one, prosecutors said. He then concealed the sale, making it appear that the animal was sold to a person in Nevada. Law enforcement officials seized the animal in 2018.

Hammonds is also accused of selling endangered cotton-top tamarins to buyers in Wisconsin, Alabama and South Carolina from March 2016 to October 2017. Hammonds concealed the sales through false records and later tried to persuade a buyer to lie and tell law enforcement that she bought the cotton-top tamarin from a flea market.

In a recently unsealed indictment, prosecutors said Hammonds is charged with conspiracy, trafficking and submitting a false record in violation of the Lacey Act, a federal law restricting the illegal sale of wildlife, violations of the Endangered Species Act, and witness tampering.