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Teen stole zoo’s elderly, endangered lemur — and abandoned it at hotel, prosecutors say

Aquinas Kasbar, a Newport Beach 19-year-old, is set to plead guilty to unlawfully taking an endangered species after he stole Isaac — a prized 32-year-old ring-tailed lemur — from a zoo, federal prosecutors said.
Aquinas Kasbar, a Newport Beach 19-year-old, is set to plead guilty to unlawfully taking an endangered species after he stole Isaac — a prized 32-year-old ring-tailed lemur — from a zoo, federal prosecutors said. Orange County District Attorney's Office

The mysterious case of the stolen lemur has finally been solved, California authorities say.

Aquinas Kasbar, a Newport Beach 19-year-old, is set to plead guilty to unlawfully taking an endangered species after he stole Isaac — a prized 32-year-old ring-tailed lemur — from the Santa Ana Zoo last summer, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California announced Monday.

Kasbar had planned to keep Isaac as a pet, prosecutors said in a news release. He now faces a maximum of a year in federal prison and a $100,000 fine.

Prosecutors described Isaac as “North America’s oldest-living ring-tailed lemur in captivity,” making him one of the “25 most endangered primates” on the planet.

Most lemurs of Isaac’s species live to be 20 to 25 years old, making him remarkably long-lived, according to authorities.

Kasbar admitted in a plea agreement filed Monday that he broke into the zoo after hours on July 27, 2018, and cut open a primate exhibit with bolt cutters to free the lemur, according to prosecutors. That allowed several other animals to escape the lemur and capuchin monkey enclosure as well, though all the animals (except Isaac) were quickly captured.

Lemurs at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute recently received a curious new gift – a GoPro camera.

Once Isaac was in Kasbar’s possession, he kept the rare animal “in a plastic drawer that lacked ventilation holes,” prosecutors said. Authorities said they found Isaac trapped in that drawer the day after he was stolen, because Kasbar left the primate in front of a hotel in Newport beach.

There were two notes on the drawer — one reading “lemur (with tracker)” and the other saying “This belongs to the Santa Ana Zoo it was taken last night please bring it to police,” prosecutors said.

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A handwritten note was found with Isaac, a ring-tailed lemur stolen Saturday from the Santa Ana Zoo, when someone dropped him off at a Newport Beach hotel in a plastic crate, authorities say. Santa Ana Police Department

The entire incident cost the zoo more than $8,000, according to authorities.

Local police said Kasbar’s bragging got him caught, CBSLA reports.

“They got information that he was bragging to an individual that he had committed that burglary and taken a lemur, and there was evidence that proved that fact,” Corp. Anthony Bertagna of Santa Ana Police Department said, according to the TV station.

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Isaac, a 32-year-old ring-tailed lemur, turned up at a Newport Beach hotel after being stolen from the Santa Ana Zoo, authorities said. Santa Ana Zoo

Kasbar has also been accused in a string of burglaries across Southern California, CBSLA reports.

“Unfortunately for [Kasbar] he took an endangered animal and now he’s going to have to pay the price,” Bertagna said, according to the TV station.

Kasbar is set to appear in federal court in Santa Ana on May 28, prosecutors said.

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