A Newport Beach teen was sentenced Monday to three months in federal prison for breaking into the Santa Ana Zoo last year, stealing North America’s oldest ring-tailed lemur living in captivity and freeing other primates in the process, prosecutors said.
Along with the 90-day term, 19-year-old Aquinas Kasbar was ordered to pay $8,486 in restitution to the zoo, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Prosecutors say Kasbar wanted the lemur, named Isaac, to keep as a pet.
Ring-tailed lemurs, a type of primate found in the wild only on the island of Madagascar, have lost more than 95% of their population since 2000, according to a recent study in Folia Primatologica.
Lemur catta rank among the 25 most endangered primates, and officials say that’s in part because of the illegal pet trade.
Isaac turned 33 this July, surpassing a lemur’s typical life span by at least eight years.
Investigators said Kasbar broke into the zoo after it closed for the day, using bolt cutters to snip a hole into the fencing holding the elderly lemur and several capuchin monkeys.
About 10 primates escaped onto the zoo’s 20-acre grounds and were later recovered. But when staff discovered the breach the next morning, Isaac was nowhere to be found.
Kasbar had allegedly abducted Isaac after placing him in an unventilated, plastic container.
Isaac was found the day after the break-in, abandoned outside a Marriott hotel in Newport Beach in a crate marked “SA Zoo.” With him was a handwritten note reading, “This belongs to the Santa Ana Zoo it was taken last night please bring it to police.”
The lemur returned to the zoo unharmed, officials said.
Kasbar had also been accused in a series of residential burglaries in Newport Beach, according to the Los Angeles Times.