Prosecutors: Alabama shop sold coat of endangered jaguar fur

Jaguar fur on a 47-year-old coat has prompted a federal case in which prosecutors accuse an Alabama clothing consignment shop of violating the Endangered Species Act.

The shop, which does business as Hertha's Second Edition, ran afoul of the federal act by selling a fur coat to someone in Biloxi, Mississippi, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint filed this week in the Southern District of Alabama. The coat was made partly from the hide of a jaguar, authorities said.

A widower had brought the coat into the consignment shop after his wife had died, said lawyer T. Jefferson Deen III, who represents the business.

Because the coat is so old, it was legal to have as long as it was kept in Alabama, Deen said.

But the buyer ended up being a government agent, who had put in an offer for the coat that was higher than others were asking and enticed the store to sell it across the state line — a violation of federal law, the defense lawyer said.

Hertha's Second Edition is described on its website as an upscale resale shop, with locations in Mobile and nearby Fairhope, Alabama.

The case is unusual, but not unprecedented in the vintage clothing business.

Last March in San Francisco, prosecutors charged the owner of a vintage clothing store with trying to sell coats and other items made of endangered species, including jaguar and snow leopard. Cicely Ann Hansen, 68, was charged with nine misdemeanor counts of illegal possession for sale of an endangered species.

Hansen owns Decades of Fashion, a popular vintage clothing store in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Hansen denied the allegations during a court appearance, and told reporters she had believed it was legal to sell fur clothes made before the Endangered Species Act took effect in the early 1970s.

The Alabama complaint provides no further details on the jaguar or the clothing at issue, but says the coat was sold sometime between Jan. 13 and Feb. 6.

An initial court appearance has been scheduled for Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Mobile.

The charge is a felony and is punishable by up to one year in prison.