A Texas couple is accused of wildlife trafficking after trying to sell a jaguar cub to an undercover agent, federal officials say.
Rafael Gutierrez-Galvan, 29, first met with a buyer on Aug. 24 in the parking lot of an Academy Sports and Outdoors, in McAllen, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. In exchange for $7,500, Gutierrez-Galvan handed over a small tan and white cat with black spots — a margay kitten, officials said.
Margays are a species of wild cat that live in Central and South America, and are similar in size and appearance to an ocelot.
After the sale, Gutierrez-Galvan agreed to meet with the buyer a second time to sell a much different, more dangerous cat — a jaguar, according to a criminal complaint.
He went to the Sept. 26 meeting unaware that his new customer was an undercover agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, documents say.
As he was making the sale, agents were watching his home in nearby Alamo. They saw Gutierrez-Galvan’s wife, 28-year-old Deynira Garza, leave the home with a case, get into a car and drive, documents said.
She was pulled over moments later by an Alamo police officer, officials said. She later admitted to investigators that the case was full of money that her husband had asked her to bring to him, according to court documents.
The money wasn’t coming, and when Gutierrez-Galvan gave the buyer the jaguar cub, more agents suddenly appeared, officials said. He told the agents in Spanish, “I’m just here to sell a cat.”
The husband and wife were taken into custody.
Attorneys representing the couple declined to comment to McClatchy News.
Gutierrez-Galvan told investigators that he buys and sells exotic animals, documents read. His wife said she helped him deliver the margay, and that she would act as a translator for him when needed, officials said.
The couple are accused of violating the Big Cat Act, which was passed in 2022, according to the release. If convicted, they could spend up to five years in jail and be fined $20,000, the release said.