Two animal-rights activists have been charged in California with terrorizing the fur industry during cross-country road trips — including in Minnesota — two years ago in which they released about 5,740 mink from fur farms and vandalized the homes and businesses of operators.
The October 2013 spree left losses in Minnesota, the nation's fifth-largest mink producer, and neighboring Wisconsin. Hundreds of mink were set loose from a southeastern Minnesota ranch, just days after Wisconsin fur farm owners scrambled to catch their own mink with fishing nets following a similar action that they called "devastating" to their operations.
The four-generation Myhre ranch east of Grand Meadow, Minn., was targeted in the 2013 attack. Workers, friends and fellow farmers helped retrieve about 450 animals. Farmers said escaped mink tend to either fail to survive or get sick from their time in the wild. Each mink is worth about $100, authorities said after the 2013 incidents.
In Friday's arrests, 31-year-old Joseph Brian Buddenberg and 28-year-old Nicole Juanita Kissane, of Oakland, Calif., were apprehended in Oakland by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Friday says they caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage during 40,000 miles of cross-country trips over the summer of 2013.
Buddenberg and Kissane are under house arrest with electronic monitoring until a scheduled court date Tuesday.
If convicted, they each face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The two allegedly sneaked onto farms in Idaho, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota and freed mink and destroyed breeding records. In one case, they released a bobcat from a farm in Montana, according to the FBI. They are also charged with vandalizing and attempting to flood the Sun Prairie, Wis., home of an employee of North American Fur Auctions.
"Whatever your feelings about the fur industry, there are legal ways to make your opinions known," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement. "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."
The indictment states that they covered their tracks by avoiding phones or logging into known online accounts and e-mail. Instead, they used public computers and encrypted e-mail, and cash for purchases while traveling. They would withdraw hundreds of dollars while home in the San Francisco Bay Area before another trip, prosecutors said.
The FBI states that they drafted communiqués and posted them online to publicize their actions on websites associated with "animal rights extremists."
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