Even for a company like Worldwide Primates that has a long history of lawsuits and criminal charges, 2023 was an unusually busy year for Worldwide Primates’ lawyers.
Mario Figueredo v. Worldwide Primates, Inc.
In February 2023, Mario Figueredo, who worked at Worldwide Primates between 2018-2022, sued the company for unpaid wages and overtime. According to the complaint, Figueredo would regularly take baby monkeys to his house after work and continue to care for them–feeding them and giving them medicine. Figueredo alleged that he was not paid for the total hours that he worked. The case was settled in May.
Sudeep Garg v. Worldwide Primates, Inc.
In August, Worldwide Primates faced another lawsuit by a former employee, this time alleging religious discrimination. Sudeep Garg was hired in January and moved his family from India to Miami. Just nine days into his new job, he was fired when Worldwide Primates discovered social media posts in which Garg expressed his religious beliefs against animal slaughter. The case was dismissed in September; the parties agreed to proceed with arbitration.
Juan Casas v. Primate Products LLC
Another lawsuit was filed in October by Juan Casas, who began working as a veterinarian for Primate Products in 2021 (Worldwide Primates and Primate Products are related companies). In July 2023, following a suspicious death of a monkey, Casas approached a supervisor (Radame Valladares) and Vice President John Resuta with concerns that another veterinarian, Ramses Alejandro Cuautle, may have been involved in the monkey’s death and possibly also with monkeys who had previously died without explanation. Shortly after sharing his concerns, Casas was fired. His lawsuit alleges wrongful termination and violation of Florida’s Whistleblower Act. The case is ongoing.
USA v. Keo, et al. Case 1:22-cr-20340-KMW
But the biggest legal news during 2023 was Worldwide Primates’ involvement in a federal criminal conspiracy investigation into the smuggling of monkeys from Asia.
In November 2022, federal prosecutors charged eight people– including Cambodian government officials and executives at Cambodia- and Hong Kong-based monkey breeding companies– with illegally importing wild-caught monkeys to the United States. Along with the eight named conspirators, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment mentioned two unindicted, unnamed co-conspirators. It is believed that Worldwide Primates is one of the uncharged co-conspirators.
The international monkey-smuggling operation involved thousands of long-tailed macaques illegally trapped from national parks and protected forests in Cambodia and then exported after falsely labeling the monkeys as “captive bred.” Among the shipments detailed in the indictment:
- In February 2020, 288 long-tailed macaques, of which 138 had been caught in the wild, were delivered to Miami.
- Another delivery of 396 macaques, which according to the DOJ included 323 illegally captured monkeys, was sent to Miami in November 2020.
The number of monkeys exported from Cambodia tripled from 2018-2020. It is very unlikely that captive breeding farms in Cambodia would have been able to increase their production in such a short time. Worldwide Primates should have been suspicious, at the very least, that the monkeys they were importing had been captured in the wild. But it’s easy to overlook suspicions when there’s money to be made!
The case is continuing in Florida’s Southern District Court. Trial may begin in early 2024.