A man who stole more than 500 federally-protected cactus plants from Lake Mead National Recreation Area has been sentenced to serve 24 months in prison. Williams Starr Schwartz, age 54, will then serve 3 years of supervised release, during which time he is banned from entering the park and surrounding public land. He must also pay $22,655 in restitution.
Court documents detail how Schwartz stole and directed others to steal the plants for him between October 2014 and August 2018. Schwartz then sold the cacti through the Internet, illegally shipping them to more than 20 countries throughout the world. Investigators recovered numerous stolen cacti during a search warrant conducted on Schwartz’s residence in August 2018. They also found methamphetamine and related drug paraphernalia.
Schwartz pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, theft of government property, smuggling cacti from the United States, and Lacey Act false labeling charges at a separate court hearing in October 2018.
This 3-year investigation was a cooperative effort by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Special Agents of the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch, and US Park Rangers of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The Assistant US Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona prosecuted the case. Restitution will be received by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.