Man Who Stole Lemur Gets Three Months in Federal Prison

SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 19-year-old Newport Beach man was sentenced today to three months in federal prison for stealing an endangered species of lemur from the Santa Ana Zoo.

Although Aquinas Arrigo Kasbar has credit for that amount of time already served, he remains in custody while awaiting a Jan. 10 sentencing date in Orange County Superior Court for a series of residential burglaries he committed in Newport Beach. His federal sentence will run concurrently with his punishment in state court.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford, who had considered making the federal sentence run consecutive to the state court term, also ordered Kasbar to pay $8,485.87 to the Santa Ana Zoo.

Kasbar, who pleaded guilty July 8 to a misdemeanor count of unlawfully taking an endangered species, broke into the zoo on July 27, 2018, after it closed for the day, and used bolt cutters to make a hole in the enclosure for lemurs and capuchin monkeys.

Santa Ana zookeepers and animal control officers managed to wrangle several monkeys back into their cages after the break-in, but Isaac -- at age 32 the oldest living ring-tailed lemur in captivity -- was unaccounted for.

Isaac is unusual in that his species usually lives 20 to 25 years. The ring-tailed lemur is on a list of the 25 most endangered primates, in part because of black market pet trading, according to prosecutors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Ahn told Guilford that he recommended the three-month concurrent sentence because the defendant tried to return the lemur before his arrest and pleaded guilty as soon as possible.

``So it sounds like you've already learned your lesson,'' the judge told the defendant.

Guilford noted Kasbar took Isaac for ``primate companionship,'' and not to make a profit, which is usually the motive in endangered species theft cases.

``I don't get these cases very often,'' Guilford said. ``It appears Mr. Kasbar wanted a pet until he quickly changed his mind.''

After he took Isaac, Kasbar put the animal in a plastic drawer that lacked ventilation holes. The next day, the lemur -- still in the drawer -- was abandoned in front of a Marriott hotel in Newport Beach, with two notes that read, ``Lemur (with tracker)'' and ``This belongs to the Santa Ana Zoo it was taken last night please bring it to police,'' according to court papers.

Kasbar did not make a statement to the judge, but asked his attorney, Brian Gurwitz, to express remorse for his actions.

``He wants to say that he's sorry for the harm he caused,'' the lawyer said.

Kasbar's father told Guilford that his family has a history of mental health issues.

``Quinn has issues, as well,'' Brian Kasbar said, referring to his son by his nickname.

The younger Kasbar pleaded guilty Sept. 10 in state court to 28 burglaries and one attempted burglary.

Kasbar accepted a plea deal from Orange County Superior Court Judge Andre Manssourian, who agreed to cap any punishment at 15 years and four months.

The minimum state prison term will be about two years, Gurwitz told Guilford.

Kasbar's burglary spree began in May 2018 and stretched through December, when he was arrested and charged with breaking into high-end homes and stealing jewelry and other valuables, including a series of guitars.

Evidence from a pawn shop helped link Kasbar to the thefts, prosecutors said. When police tried to arrest him, Kasbar ran away and leaped into the water in the Back Bay area.

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