Case about boots highlights animal trade
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
A master of his craft, Martín Villegas Terrones won fame as the personal boot maker for former Mexican President Vicente Fox as well as for army generals and other top Mexican officials. Villegas’s footwear gained display space in high-profile U.S. establishments. And when U.S. President George Bush visited Fox at the Mexican president’s ranch back in 2001, he was given a pair of ostrich-skin boots fashioned by Villegas.
Today, the Guanajuato man is back in the media spotlight, but this time as a target of justice and environmental officials on both sides of the border. In two Denver court cases, Villegas and seven other individuals are charged with money laundering and smuggling animal products from Mexico into the United States. They’re accused of violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the international Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), with the trafficking allegedly involving goods made using protected species ranging from sea turtles to pythons.