Houston woman sentenced after illegally selling spider monkey and toucans on Craigslist

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Tuesday, March 19, 2024
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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston woman has been sentenced for illegally selling wild animals, including a monkey and exotic birds, according to U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

The video above is from ABC13's 24/7 livestream.

Savannah Nicole Valdez, 21, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty.

Valdez was previously sentenced to two years of supervised release after smuggling a monkey into the United States and onto a high-speed flight from an immigration checkpoint. This sentence has since been revoked and replaced with another month in prison.

In the summer of 2023, authorities found multiple Craigslist posts advertising keel-billed toucans and yellow-headed Amazon parrots for sale, officials said. These exotic birds are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.

According to an initial investigation, the contact number listed for the animals was the same as Valdez's personal cell phone number.

Undercover authorities set up the sale of two keel-billed toucans and a Mexican spider monkey, officials said.

Investigators said her mother sold the toucans at Memorial City Mall in Houston for $3,000 on July 28, 2023, and later admitted that her daughter arranged the sale.

On Aug. 1, 2023, Valdez coordinated the sale of a Mexican spider monkey for $8,500 and had her sister deliver it on her behalf.

Investigators said the animals have since been transferred to zoos within Texas.

"When Savannah Valdez sold a Mexican spider monkey, she contributed to endangering a species," said Hamdani. "Those who traffic in infant spider monkeys shoot the mothers first and then pull the infants from their mother's dead bodies before throwing them into cages for transport. Valdez's actions helped sustain an illicit market that encouraged the needless death and suffering of endangered animals. Thankfully, now she will have to spend time in a cage of her making, a prison cell."

Valdez is permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility in the near future, according to officials.