TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Satsuma, Fla. woman was arrested for illegally selling a capuchin monkey to a 15-year-old girl, who then attacked the teenager.
Joan Newberger, 75, faces numerous charges after she sold the girl and her mother the monkey for $9,500 on Nov. 22, according to an affidavit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The affidavit said the exchange happened in Satsuma. The girl’s mother was reportedly worried about the legality of the purchase, having found the monkey for sale through an online ad.
When the mother and daughter arrived in Florida to purchase the monkey, Newberger took them to a trailer on her property to show them the capuchin, and another monkey for sale, a marmoset, according to the affidavit.
Ultimately, the mom and teen chose to buy the capuchin. When they asked Newberger for papers and for a copy of her permit, the affidavit says she told the two she did not have the documents. The mother and teen left with the monkey anyway after giving Newberger the $9,500, but later returned to ask for a refund and give the capuchin back to Newberger.
According to the affidavit, Newberger agreed to give them back $9,000.
When the 15-year-old girl went to pet the monkey “and say goodbye” it bit her finger, causing an infection that led to hospitalization, the affidavit said.
The girl’s mother called law enforcement to report the incident, leading to an investigation by FWC and the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. When officers entered Newberger’s property, she showed them the two monkeys in her trailer. The affidavit said she told FWC officers she was “aware she needs permits for monkies,” confirmed she owned the capuchin, and said she brought it to Florida from South Carolina.
The affidavit said Newberger denied anyone had come to buy the monkey, or been bitten by it, despite digital evidence provided to law enforcement by the girl and her mother regarding the sale of and bite by the capuchin. The materials provided to law enforcement officers included screenshots, the online advertisement, and statements, according to the affidavit.
Newberger formerly held “multiple licenses for captive wildlife in the State of Florida,” and was licensed to a business, ACME Grooming & Pet Haven, the affidavit added. She also used to have an out-of-state exhibition and sale permit, but it expired in 2017.
In 2016, Newberger had twice received citations from law enforcement for her capuchin monkey biting people, according to the affidavit.
Now, Newberger faces four charges of illegal possession of conservation animals from PCSO and one charge of possession of captive wildlife for commercial or sanctuary purposes without a permit, a citation from FWC.