Sand Springs man pleads guilty to illegally importing leopard body parts
BY DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer
Friday, May 04, 2012
5/04/12 at 6:21 AM
A Sand Springs man who has helped others go on international "big game" hunting trips pleaded guilty Thursday in Tulsa to a federal charge that alleged he provided false information on a permit application in order to import leopard parts from South Africa.
Michael John Mistelske, 64, admitted that on May 15, 2007, he falsely claimed he was applying to import a skin and skull from a leopard that he had hunted on May 1, 2007.
According to a felony charge filed on March 13, such leopards were listed as "threatened" under United States law and are a species covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Parts of such species were not permitted to be imported to the United States unless accompanied by a valid import permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the charge says,
To obtain an import permit, a person was required to identify the date the leopard was "taken," the quantity of leopards involved and must have acknowledged an understanding that the "imported sport-hunted trophy" was personally hunted by the applicant, according to the charge.
Mistelske stated in his plea agreement that on the application he submitted in May 2007, "I knew that the skin and skull were from two separate leopards" and that the skull came from a leopard killed in April 2006 by another person.
Court documents state, as a result of his representations, an import permit was issued and the leopard parts arrived at Mistelske's residence in October 2007.
The charge says Mistelske was allowed to hunt and stay at an African ranch for a discounted rate in exchange for bringing business to the ranch.
Mistelske, who is on bond, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 1 by U.S. Chief District Judge Gregory Frizzell.
By law, he could face as much as five years in prison. However, Mistelske's attorney Gary Wood said he is optimistic his client will be eligible for probation.
Original Print Headline: Man pleads guilty to illegally importing leopard body parts
David Harper 918-581-8476