A New Jersey man was sentenced this week to a day in the slammer for buying an illegal $6,800 tiger skin rug to decorate his “safari room,” according to prosecutors and a new report.
Loren Varga, 62, of Franklin Township, bought the rug and traveled across state lines to the Keystone State to receive it, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, William M. McSwain, said in a statement.
Varga pleaded guilty in July to one count of violating the Endangered Species Act and one count of violating the Lacey Act, which bans trafficking in illegal wildlife, McSwain said.
He was sentenced on Tuesday to one day in jail, two years’ supervised release and a $1,500 fine, the prosecutor said.
Years earlier, Varga had attempted to buy another illegal tiger pelt and was warned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that the act was a crime, according to McSwain.
But that didn’t stop him from seeking out his second rug, officials said.
When the agency discovered his intentions, it arranged a sting operation to stop him. This spring, an undercover agent offered Varga the hide of a tiger killed in 1985, a dozen years after the big cats were placed on the Endangered Species List, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Varga ended up driving to Pennsylvania to retrieve it — which ultimately led to his arrest.
“People who make persistent efforts to own these endangered animal pelts are part of the very industry that has led these majestic animals to become endangered,” McSwain said in the statement. “It is illegal and further, it is unconscionable, that someone would attempt to procure an endangered animal skin not just once, but twice. We take this type of conduct seriously and it will be prosecuted.”
Varga is a world traveler and antiques collector who works as a radiological technician at Merck, as well as Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the Inquirer reported.
He worked days at Merck and weekends at the hospital to fund the expensive decorations he displayed in the so-called “safari room” of his home, friends wrote in letters to the court, according to the report.
Varga also told the court that he’d always had a passion for endangered wild cats.
“To hear him talk about this love of tigers is truly appalling,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Beam Winter said, according to the paper. “This is a man who did something really wrong to a terribly depleted natural beauty that is one day going to be gone because of people like him.”
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