Two animal rights activists have been charged with domestic terrorism and could face up to 10 years in prison after freeing almost 6,000 minks across the US.
Joseph Brian Buddenberg, 31, and Nicole Juanita Kissane, 28, were charged by federal prosecutors with conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act after they were arrested by agents from the FBI on Friday.
The pair, both from Oakland in California, are alleged to have caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage in trips criss-crossing the US in the summer and autumn of 2013.
Prosecutors claim Mr Buddenberg and Ms Kissane sneaked into mink farms in Idaho, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota, in order to free the animals and destroy breeding records.
In total they are believed to have freed an estimated 5,740 mink from captivity.
They are also alleged to have slashed vehicles’ tires, glued businesses’ locks or smashed windows, vandalizing property across a number of states.
The FBI claims they avoided detection by operating solely in cash while on the road – withdrawing huge sums in California prior to their trips – and using public internet and encrypted services as they travelled.
US attorney Laura Duffy said that “whatever your feelings” on the fur industry, there were “legal ways” to voice your opinion.
The conduct alleged here, sneaking around at night, stealing property and vandalizing homes and businesses with acid, glue, and chemicals, is a form of domestic terrorism and can’t be permitted to continue,” she said in a statement.
If convicted the pair face up to ten years in prison, as well as fines up to £161,000 ($250,000).
Additional reporting by Associated Press