A monkey-trading middleman charged over his role in the Symbio Wildlife Park primate theft stood to profit just $500 from the illegal affair, a court has heard.
Sidelined by a workplace injury, Jackson George hadn’t received a pay cheque for five weeks when he got word of a rare pygmy marmoset, only a few weeks old, for sale.
He agreed to buy the baby for $1000 after making arrangements to on-sell it for $1500.
As George, 23, awaited sentencing in Campbelltown Local Court on Tuesday, solicitor Ali Abbas told the court his client had acted for profit.
“He saw it as an opportunity to make some quick money,” Mr Abbas said.
The court heard George was one of several people who were sent a message offering three monkeys for sale.
He collected the youngest of the trio on November 27, after arranging to meet the seller – who remains under police investigation – at a cemetery in Leppington.
He was meeting a buyer at the Appin Hotel later that afternoon when he was stopped by police as part of an investigation into a break-in at the Helensburgh zoo two nights earlier.
“He had the monkey in his custody for less than two hours,” Mr Abbas told the court on Tuesday.
“He picked it up in a bird cage. There was food and water when he collected it and it appeared to him the monkey was behaving normally, as a monkey would.”
Magistrate David Degnan heard George and his family had suffered embarrassment and stress as a result of extensive media coverage surrounding the theft.
He accepted the “barrage of abuse” directed at George amounted to a form of punishment in itself.
He ordered George to pay $2500 and placed him on a two-year good behaviour bond.
The sentence factored in George’s early guilty plea, clean criminal history, inability to perform community service and contrition.
Mr Abbas said his client had severed ties with the monkey-seller and had forwarded the zoo $250 “as a show of remorse”.
“I was instructed by my client to contact the zoo and check up on their [the monkeys’ wellbeing],” Mr Abbas said, adding George did not make the approach himself for fear he “may be not very well received”.
George recruited his brother Jesse George, 25, to drive him between the pick-up and sale points on November 27.
Both men were charged with dealing with proceeds of crime and pleaded guilty at their first court appearance, December 28.
On that date, Jesse Jackson was place on a two-year good behaviour bond and fined $1500.
Text messages previously tendered to the court showed Jackson George initially offered to buy all three monkeys.
When shown a picture of the baby, he maintained his offer, even when told the seller "paid nothing” for the creature and had “got it from the zoo last night haha".
The monkeys were discovered stolen from the park the morning of November 26.
The brothers were arrested the following afternoon after the baby monkey was found at the Appin Hotel drop-off point, by then wrapped in Jackson’s jumper, according to police documents tendered to the court.
Another of the monkeys - a female juvenile named Sofia - was found in Campbelltown the same day.
The third monkey, Gomez, was discovered on the doorstep of a York Street, Tahmoor veterinary clinic the night of December 28.
It is not suggested that either brother played a role in breaking into the park and removing the animals from their enclosure.
A police investigation into the matter is ongoing.
- This article was first published on the Illawarra Mercury