Thursday, February 25, 2021

Buffalo antique dealer admits to selling illegal leopard specimen

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An upstate New York antique dealer — whose rare collections have been featured in Hollywood hits — has pleaded guilty to selling an illicit mounted leopard to an undercover agent.

Michael Merisola, who owns Buffalo luxury vintage store CooCooU27, pleaded guilty Friday in Ohio federal court to one misdemeanor count of violating the Endangered Species Act by selling the 100-year-old specimen.

“I bought this out of a gallery in New York City, and I was under the impression it was grandfathered in,” Merisola, 62, told The Post on Monday. “I’ve never been in trouble in my life. It was poor judgment.”

An undercover special agent with the US Fish and Wildlife Service spotted the taxidermied cat on Merisola’s Instagram account in 2019 and posed as a customer interested in purchasing it, according to court papers.

Merisola sold the animal to the agent for $4,200 — which landed him in handcuffs.

He now faces up to one year in prison, but he said his lawyers are trying to negotiate a probation-only plea bargain that would require him to pay a $7,500 fine.

Hollywood set decorator Shane Vieau told Architectural Digest that Merisola’s sprawling Buffalo warehouse is one of his favorite sources for pieces from the 1950s to 1980s.

Merisola’s extensive midcentury collection was featured in the 2017 Academy Award-winning film “The Shape of Water” and his antique medical lighting and scientific props were used in the horror flick “A Quiet Place.”

“I’ve done a lot of major motion pictures,” Merisola said.

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