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Women convicted of smuggling monkey

Tue., Dec. 9, 2008

A 29-year-old Spokane woman and her mother were convicted Monday by a U.S. District Court jury of smuggling a monkey into the United States.

Gypsy Lawson hid the young rhesus macaque monkey under her blouse, pretending to be pregnant, and successfully passed through U.S. customs after a trip to Bangkok, Thailand, in November 2007 with her mother, 55-year-old Fran Ogren, of Northport, Wash.

She didn’t run afoul of the law until she took the young monkey she named Apoo to a Spokane shopping mall the day after Christmas last year.

Lawson and Ogren were found guilty by a 12-member jury on separate charges of conspiracy and smuggling goods into the United States.

The women traveled to Thailand after establishing e-mail contact with a man named Boris. Once there, the women gave the monkey sleeping pills to sedate him before boarding planes for the United States.

During the trip home, Ogren sent an e-mail to “NE Washington Witches and Pagans” at a Yahoo account and asked for “last-minute energy” to help them safely smuggle the monkey into the United States.

The women got past U.S. Customs officials in Los Angeles.

But the monkey caper ended when Lawson and her boyfriend, James Edward Pratt, visited a Fashion Bug store in north Spokane and told a clerk about the smuggled monkey. The clerk called federal agents.

A four-day trial ended Friday; the jury reached a verdict Monday morning.

Pratt, 34, testified as a prosecution witness during the trial. He also was indicted and faced felony charges, but he struck a plea bargain with federal prosecutors in July, agreeing to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and testify as a government witness.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Van Marter also introduced journals, e-mails and photos taken by federal agents during a search of Ogren’s home.

The monkey was seized by federal agents and transported to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facility in California. After being quarantined for several weeks, the monkey tested negative for infectious diseases. It’s now at a primate rescue facility in Oregon, where it will remain, said Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice.

Lawson and Ogren will remain free on their own recognizance until sentencing March 3.

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