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He wanted a pet monkey but stole a lemur instead; then he bragged about it, FBI says

Hannah Fry, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- An Orange County man who stole an endangered ring-tailed lemur from the Santa Ana Zoo actually had his heart set on a monkey when he entered the 20-acre property under the cover of darkness last year in search of a new pet, federal investigators said this week.

Much to Aquinas "Quinn" Kasbar's chagrin, none of the monkeys would cooperate with him, so he snagged a 32-year-old lemur named Isaac instead, according to the FBI.

The whole scene unfolded sometime after the Santa Ana Zoo closed July 27, 2018. Authorities said Kasbar used bolt cutters to open enclosures and release a group of capuchin monkeys and ring-tailed lemurs before making off with Isaac, the oldest lemur of his kind in North America. Lemurs are found in the wild only on the island nation of Madagascar and are an endangered species.

"It was definitely alarming," Ethan Fisher, executive director of the Santa Ana Zoo, said in a prepared statement. "He is a senior animal, and all of the primates have special care. They have specialized diets formulated for their species."

Isaac wasn't missing for long. Employees at the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview found him outside the front door of the hotel in a plastic crate with a note that read: "This belongs to the Santa Ana Zoo. It was taken last night. Please bring it to police."

The lemur was returned safely to the zoo, but the identity of his captor remained a mystery until December, when Kasbar was arrested and charged in connection with a series of burglaries in Newport Beach.

 

While in custody, Kasbar bragged to his bail agent that he had stolen a lemur from the zoo. He even showed the person a video on his phone of himself with the lemur, said Santa Ana Police Detectove Farshid Hashempour, who investigated the case as part of an FBI task force.

"Investigators learned that Kasbar had broken into the zoo with the intention of taking a monkey for a pet, but he couldn't get any of the monkeys to go with him," the FBI wrote in a news release.

Kasbar, 19, agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of unlawfully taking an endangered animal and was sentenced last month to three months in prison. He also must pay $8,485 in restitution to the zoo, court records show.

Kasbar declined to comment at his sentencing hearing last month, but his attorney, Brian Gurwitz, said his client was apologetic for his actions.

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