Feds arrest RGV couple after undercovers buy exotic cats

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This photo from the criminal complaint shows a jaguar cub purchased by federal agents who were undercover.

A Rio Grande Valley couple were arrested Tuesday after they admitted to buying and selling exotic animals, according to a criminal complaint.

Both Rafael Gutierrez-Galvan, a Mexican national born in 1994, and his wife Deyanira Garza, a United States citizen born in 1995, waived their rights and spoke to law enforcement about how they would buy and sell without a license.

The complaint states that Gutierrez-Galvan delivered two endangered species to an undercover Homeland Security Investigations special agent on two separate occasions this year.

On Aug. 24, Gutierrez-Galvan delivered a margay to the undercover agent in exchange for $7,500.

At around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Gutierrez-Galvan delivered a jaguar cub to the undercover agent which is when federal agents approached Gutierrez-Galvan.

He told the authorities in Spanish that he was just there to sell a cat.

As this was happening, a separate group of federal agents were conducting surveillance at Gutierrez-Galvan’s residence which is where they observed Garza carrying a case and entering a vehicle.

“An Alamo police officer conducted a traffic stop for failure to signal on the vehicle and identified the driver as Deyanira Garza, Gutierrez-Galvan’s wife,” the complaint said. “During the traffic stop, Garza stated there was money in the case.”

Both were transported to HSI McAllen where they were interviewed by authorities.

Guttierez-Galvan admitted that he was self-employed and buys and sells animals. He added that he was delivering “a wild cat” and admitted that he had previously met the undercover agent to deliver a “Persian cat.”

This photo from the criminal complaint shows a margay purchased by federal agents who were undercover.

During her interview, Garza admitted that her husband buys and sells animals that include, margays, parrots and other animals. She added that she assists her husband in wildlife trafficking by acting as a translator for him.

“Garza admitted she had accompanied Gutierrez-Galvan to deliver a margay for sale at the Academy Sports in McAllen, Texas,” the complaint said. “Garza admitted that she nor Gutierrez-Galvan possess a USDA license to buy, sell, trade or transport exotic animals such as margays and jaguars.”

She also stated that her husband had called her and told her to remove the cash from the house and bring it to him.

The couple are scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nadia S. Medrano in McAllen federal court on Friday for their preliminary examination and detention hearing.