U.S. agrees to plea deal in international cactus smuggling ring operating in Arizona, Nevada

By Michel Marizco
Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2022 - 10:16am
Updated: Wednesday, January 5, 2022 - 11:08am

U.S. District Court
Plea Agreement filed in Arizona Jan. 4

Federal prosecutors have agreed to a plea deal with a defendant charged in an international cactus trafficking scheme in northern Arizona. 

Jerrid Maloy was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to pay less than $4,715.48 in restitution after admitting to being part of the trafficking ring. Between 2016 and 2018, Maloy stole cactus from washes and sides of the road in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and either sold them to buyers around the world or conspired with another man to do so. The money will go to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Barrel cactus
Getty Images
A barrel cactus at Saguaro National Park.

According to charging documents filed in U.S. District Court in Flagstaff, Maloy and another man William Starr Schwartz conspired to sell the cactus over eBay.

Maloy and his co-conspirators sold hedgehog cactus, barrel cactus and pineapple cactus over eBay. The four varieties, which include cotton top cactus, are all protected by international treaty. 

Buyers spanned the globe, ranging, from Russia to France to Ireland and Afghanistan and here in the U.S. 

Maloy sold the cactus to Schwartz in exchange for money or drugs. Schwartz pleaded out to selling more than 500 cactus valued over $20,000 from the same national recreation area. 

The case started in 2015 when a tipster notified federal law enforcement of the thefts. Maloy's vehicle was eventually identified. Maloy kept a P.O. Box in Meadview, Ariz., that he used to ship the cactus. He labeled the shipments "home décor" or "garden décor."

The packages went out to Italy, Israel, France, Thailand, Switzerland, China and Cyprus. And in the U.S., they went out to California, here in Arizona, Indiana, Utah and Puerto Rico.

Text messages between the defendants were extensive. In one 2018 exchange, Maloy offered to double up on the amount of cactus he'd deliver in exchange for drugs. Federal agents noted they seized methamphetamine and cactus during a search of Schwartz's home. 

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