Aquinas Kasbar, 19, of Newport Beach, California has agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of unlawfully taking an endangered species on Monday as part of a plea agreement for stealing a ring-tailed lemur from the Santa Ana Zoo, BuzzFeed News reports.
Kasbar told federal prosecutors that his desire to own a pet lemur led to him sneaking into the zoo on July 27, 2018. With the use of a bolt cutter, he tried to retrieve one by breaking into the enclosure housing lemurs and capuchin monkeys, but accidentally let most of the animals escape.
Kasbar was able to flee the zoo with a 32-year-old ring-tailed lemur named Isaac in what a DOJ press release reports as “a plastic drawer that lacked ventilation holes.” It is the oldest of its species in captivity in North America, and one of the 25 most endangered primates.
Even though all animals, aside from Isaac, were retrieved, the Santa Ana Zoo claims that the costs to recover the animals and return them to their newly repaired enclosure totaled around $8,486.
The day after stealing Isaac, Kasbar attempted to return the lemur by leaving a handwritten note with the animal in that same box outside the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview hotel. “This belongs to the Santa Ana Zoo,” the note reads. “It was taken last night. Please bring it to the police.”
Kasbar faces up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. He is also facing 29 felony and two misdemeanor charges, including “multiple counts of burglary, possession of stolen property, possession of burglary tools, identity theft and resisting arrest,” stemming from a string of alleged residential burglaries in Newport Beach. He has plead not guilty to the charges.