Aquinas Kasbar has admitted to breaking into the Santa Ana Zoo in California and stealing a critically endangered ring-tailed lemur, federal authorities say. Kasbar, who goes by Quinn Kasbar, stole Isaac, a 32-year-old lemur, in July 2018, according to prosecutors. The lemur was later found outside of a hotel.
The 19-year-old Kasbar, who was arrested on several unrelated burglaries in 2018 in the Newport Beach area, faces up to one year in federal prison along with a fine of up to $100,000 when he is sentenced. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of unlawfully taking an endangered species.
Isaac is, “North America’s oldest ring-tailed lemur in captivity. (The life span of a lemur typically is 20 to 25 years.) The ring-tailed lemur is on a list of the 25 most endangered primates, and ring-tailed lemurs are endangered, in part, because of the illegal pet trade, according to the plea agreement,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a press release.
Kasbar is an accused serial burglar who terrorized several Newport Beach neighborhoods in 2017 and 2018, according to police and his victims. “I was rocked and so was my community,” Corona del Mar resident Claudia Schmutzler told the Los Angeles Times in May 2019. “He took my little pet tortoise, a tortoise I’d had for 10 years. He takes whatever he wants like it’s his God-given right. He’s damn good at it and he’ll do it again.”
Her tortoise was eventually recovered. Schmutzler sarcastically applauded Kasbar’s, “entrepreneur spirit,” telling the newspaper, “He was not just a kid stealing hubcaps. He delights in this. I think the best possible answer is to give him the stiffest sentence possible.”
Kasbar could not be reached for comment by Heavy. His attorney also did not respond to a request for comment. He is expected to make his first court appearance on May 28 in United States District Court in Santa Ana. “This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Newport Beach Police Department, and the Santa Ana Police Departments” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel H. Ahn of the Santa Ana Branch Office and Erik M. Silber of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.”
Here’s what you need to know about Aquinas Kasbar:
1. Kasbar Used Bolt Cutters to Get Into a Zoo Enclosure & Several Animals Escaped Through the Hole He Left, Prosecutors Say
Quinn Kasbar admitted to using bolt cutters to break into an enclosure at the Santa Ana Zoo after hours on July 27, 2018, federal prosecutors said. According to a press release, Kasbar “cut a hole in the zoo’s enclosures for lemurs and capuchin monkeys, which enabled several of the animals to escape, though they were later recovered, according to court documents.”
Kasbar said he planned to steal the lemur to keep it as a pet. “Kasbar’s actions resulted in a loss to the Santa Ana Zoo of approximately $8,486, court papers state,” prosecutors said in the plea agreement.
The zoo discovered that Isaac was missing the morning after the burglary and called police, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2018. “First we were very startled and we were just concerned for the lemur,” zoo manager Ethan Fisher told the newspaper. “We wanted to make sure that it was OK.”
Isaac is the oldest of six lemurs at the Santa Ana Zoo and has lived there since 2000.
2. He Left Isaac the Lemur Outside of the Newport Beach Hotel With a Note That Read, ‘This Belong to the Santa Ana Zoo … Please Bring It to Police’
Isaac the lemur was returned to the zoo unharmed after Kasbar left the animal on the street, prosecutors said. According to the press release, “After stealing Isaac, Kasbar placed the animal in a plastic drawer that lacked ventilation holes, court papers state. The next day, Kasbar abandoned Isaac in front of a Newport Beach hotel, leaving him in the same plastic drawer with two notes placed on it, which read, ‘Lemur (with tracker)’ and ‘This belongs to the Santa Ana Zoo it was taken last night please bring it to police.'”
According to the Los Angeles Times, staff members at the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview found the lemur at the front door of the hotel and called Newport Beach Police.
Ethan Fisher told the Times that Isaac was returned to the zoo and the lemur went right back to being its normal “mellow” self. Fisher told the newspaper, “People do all sorts of strange things. Some people think it might have been a prank, others think maybe someone was trying to sell him. There are so many theories, but I can’t begin to guess.”
In 2018, after the burglary, the Santa Ana Zoo wrote on Twitter, “Our capuchins, lemurs and Issac in particular are all safe and accounted for after last weekend’s after-hours break in. Thank you to our staff, volunteers and local authorities. We ❤️ you! And thank you to all who checked in with us today to ensure our animals were OK.”
On Facebook, the zoo wrote, “Everybody loves lemurs, but they much prefer to stay at the Zoo than be taken away by strangers.”
Fisher told the Orange County Register after the plea deal was announced, “He’s doing well. It’s nice to have some closure to this.”
You can read the full plea agreement below:
3. Kasbar Faces 29 Felony Charges in Connection to a String of Burglaries in Orange County, Prosecutors There Say
Quinn Kasbar is facing several felony charges in Orange County, California, in connection to a string of unrelated 2017 and 2018 burglaries at unoccupied homes and storage facilities in the Balboa Island and Corona del Mar areas, according to state prosecutors. Kasbar faces 29 felony charges of burglary and attempted burglary and a misdemeanor count of possession of stolen property, according to court records.
Kasbar has been free on $550,000 bail since his arrest on December 1, 2018. He has pleaded not guilty. Police have said the burglaries occurred between July 2017 and August 2018. According to court documents, evidence obtained during the investigation into the burglaries led to Kasbar being connected to the lemur theft.
Police said search warrants resulted in investigators finding a “large amount of stolen property valued in the several hundreds of thousands of dollars.” In February, police displayed recovered property, including watches, jewelry and a guitar, for the public to see in an effort to return the stolen goods to rightful owners.
During a May 2019 hearing, victims told the court about what was taken, including cash and jewelry and other irreplacee heirlooms that have not been found. They also told the judge he took their security and has been “parading” around Newport Beach despite his bail requirements restricting him to Balboa Island, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“It was horrible for a long time, and I just didn’t feel the same way about the … house that I had just bought,” one victim told the judge, according to the Times.
Kasbar is scheduled to appear in court on June 25 in connection to the state charges.
4. He Went Viral in the Summer of 2018 After a Video Was Posted of Him Surfing on an Air Mattress at Newport’s Wedge
Quinn Kasbar had a bit of a viral moment in the summer of 2018 when a video was posted on YouTube and other social media sites showing him riding a wave at Newport Beach’s Wedge on an air mattress. The video found its way onto the local news and several surfing websites.
But not everyone was impressed with Kasbar’s stunt. He earned the ire of the popular “Kook of the Day” Instagram account after a photo was taken showing his air mattress left on the beach, apparently after he abandoned it following his surfing adventure.
The photo was captioned, “Hey @quinnkasbar, you should pick up your trash when you’re done using it. Being from Newport Beach, I would think you would want to keep your beach clean.” The account added, “To all you kooks who think the kook that rode the air mattress at wedge was super funny or rad…well think again! Maybe his mom is on her way to pick it up for him.”
5. Kasbar Grew Up on Balboa Island & Has Also Lived in Spokane, Washington
Aquinas Arrigo Kasbar is from the Balboa Island community of Newport Beach, according to online records. He has also lived in Spokane, Washington, where his mother owns a home. Kasbar is one of seven children, according to a 2014 profile of his mother, Laura Kasbar, in the Orange County Register.
Laura Kasbar was named one of the OC Register’s “Most Influential” people that year, according to the newspaper’s archives. She created a learning platform called Gemiini to post educational videos for people on the Autism spectrum and with brain injuries, Down syndrome and learning disabilities, the Register wrote. Her twin sons, who are Quinn’s younger brothers, are on the Autism spectrum, according to the article.
“In 2014, Gemiini started selling Kasbar’s products to the public, the next step after 14 years of work with researchers at Princeton and UC San Diego. Using actors and models, Kasbar has uploaded more than 12,000 videos on Gemiini’s website. There, people can learn words, languages, numbers and vocational skills, such as preparing for a job interview. For a monthly fee, parents or caregivers can go into the video library, choose the most appropriate categories, and make their own customized learning session. Her products are sold in 20 countries and have been translated into Spanish, Mandarin and American Sign Language,” the Register wrote.