EL PASO — The notorious Los Gatos catnip cartel used a 12km-long tunnel to smuggle their product directly into the big house, the FBI said on Friday after discovering the clandestine passage.
With an underground route leading to the basement of Animal Control, Los Gatos moved an estimated 125 pounds of catnip and 80 pounds of silvervine — with a street value of 32 cans of wet food per ounce — to inmates every week, according to the Feline Bureau of Investigation.
The slippery cartel couldn’t have constructed and operated the tunnel without the help of at least one animal control officer, authorities said.
“Our investigation indicates they had a man on the inside in addition to the cats who received the shipments,” Special Agent Purrlock Holmes said. “The raw product was brought into a sub-basement where it was cut with oregano and Moroccan mint, then bagged for distribution to the inmates.”
The animal control facility, which houses an estimated 230 cats in addition to more than 100 dogs, was placed on lockdown after Feline Bureau of Investigation agents raided the tunnels and facilities.
The sudden cut-off of catnip has precipitated withdrawal among the feline inmate population, overwhelming the facility’s medical staff.
“At least half our cats are suffering from acute withdrawal from catnip and silver vine,” said one doctor who declined to provide her name. “We’ve got cats throwing up in their cells, alternating between sweating and chills, and blowing up their own litter boxes with unprecedented eliminations. It’s not pretty.”
Los Gatos denied knowledge of or involvement in the tunnel in a statement provided by a spokescat.
“Like all organizations with a stake in our community, Los Gatos has been focused on keeping cats safe during this terrible pandemic,” the group wrote in the statement. “We are a charitable organization and we grow weary of these libelous and slanderous claims that we’re somehow involved in illicit activities. Thankfully we have a pretty good idea of who is spreading these vicious rumors, and that feline will be dealt with. In the kindest way, of course.”
I finally got around to watching Netflix’s Don’t F*ck With Cats, a documentary about the effort to track down a narcissistic killer whose victims included several kittens, an adult cat and finally a Chinese-Canadian engineering student.
If you’re not familiar with the three-part documentary, here’s the short version: A man uploaded sadistic videos of himself torturing and killing cats, prompting a group of online vigilantes to conduct their own investigation and offer the information to police, who promptly ignored all of it.
The cat killer taunted the horrified netizens for two years, vowing to continue taking life and leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow each time he killed more kittens, until finally someone found the headless, limbless torso of his first human victim in a garbage dumpster in Ontario.
The murderer had arranged to meet another man he’d met on Craigslist, then filmed himself killing the incapacitated man just like he’d filmed himself killing kittens. The video appeared online shortly after the murder.
The police, who couldn’t be bothered when it was “just” cats, suddenly got really interested. The killer fled to Paris — where he became the subject of an international manhunt and media circus — then to Berlin. He stopped in an internet cafe to Google stories about himself, but the cafe’s clerk recognized him and called the police. He was taken into custody without incident, then promptly extradited back to Canada for trial.
The police don’t exactly cover themselves in glory with this case. Not only did they fail to act on information from concerned tipsters, they were either unaware or uninterested in the statistical correlation between people who kill animals for pleasure “graduating” to human victims once killing animals loses its thrill.
They had a man in their jurisdiction torturing and killing cats, capturing the horrific deeds on camera and regularly uploading new videos. They failed to act.
The thing is, animal life has intrinsic value. We delude ourselves into believing that because the voiceless — human and animal — can’t express their suffering, it doesn’t exist. The police should have acted when the killer’s victims were “just” cats for the sake of the cats, and not only because animal abusers often move on to harming human beings.
Canadian police culture
It was also surprising to see how deferential and naïve the Canadian investigators seemed in comparison to their American counterparts. At various turns they failed to preserve evidence, missed important clues and underestimated the killer. In one scene an investigator casually mentions the discovery of a dead puppy in the same trash the human torso was found, failing to connect the dots despite the many warnings her agency had received.
When Canadian police finally got the killer into custody they handled him with kid gloves, allowing him to play the part of scared little boy who didn’t know what he was doing rather than what he was: A calculating 32-year-old man who clearly enjoyed inflicting suffering on people and animals, playing to his captive audience of several thousand people on Facebook as he led them on a scavenger hunt.
The killer routinely interrupted police interviews, shrugged off difficult questions by complaining that he was tired, and tried to buy time for himself to think by asking for things like warmer clothing, cigarettes and beverages.
In short, they allowed him to manipulate them as he had manipulated everyone else.
When the killer’s mother appears on camera, you can see the beginnings of his psychosis. She believes her son is a sweet little angel who was himself manipulated by a phantom, a person her son invented to excuse his deeds.
She also admits she knew about the cat videos and did nothing. In her view, people concerned about animal welfare are “crazy,” and those crazies shouldn’t have gotten so wound up over a few videos in which her son kills kittens while singing along to pop songs. Just a sweet little boy having fun.
Remembering Jun Lin
As for the killer himself, I’m not going to name him. His victim was Jun Lin, a 33-year-old engineering student who moved from China to Canada because, as his friend Benjamin Xu explained, the latter country is more accepting of gay men.
Toward the end of the documentary, Xu mentioned something I’ve often thought about: Society’s obsession with “true crime” and how our morbid curiosity gives would-be murderers precisely what they want. If they can’t achieve fame, infamy is the next best thing.
We do a great disservice by immortalizing the killers and forgetting the victims. Everyone can name the two Columbine killers, but how many of us can name the victims?
“The really sad thing is, everybody is talking about [the killer] and nobody has ever remembered Jun,” Xu said. “That doesn’t seem fair at all to my friend. He doesn’t deserve that.”
The other stars of the show
Finally, there are the two “sleuths” at the center of the documentary, who spent two years of their lives ostensibly investigating the killer while giving him exactly what he wanted. Contrary to what the documentary’s title suggests, they weren’t cat lovers, just a couple of people motivated by the thrill of the hunt.
As their Facebook group about the murderer swelled to thousands of members he reveled in the attention, intentionally leaving clues for them in each subsequent video like a scavenger hunt, a fun little game for them to play as long as he remained the star of the show.
The documentary glosses over their mistakes, and there were some big ones: At one point they were so sure a South African man was the killer that they made his life a living hell, with an entire team of online vigilantes across the world harassing him from afar.
That man killed himself and was likely collateral damage in this fun little game the “sleuths” had going, but who has time for that when there are fresh clues and leads to track down? We got the wrong guy, LOL! Oops!
In the end it was someone else — quite likely the killer himself — who provided the alleged sleuths with the killer’s name once they’d exhausted their leads and the hunt became stale. He wanted them to continue the chase.
While the would-be detectives did manage to collect some information via their own efforts, it’s not accurate to say they solved the mystery.
On the other hand it’s fair to question whether the killer would have gone as far as he did if he didn’t have tens of thousands of people on Facebook hanging on his every video and utterance.
The documentary ends with one of the killer’s obsessives, a Las Vegas woman named Deanna Thompson, looking at the camera and admonishing the audience for being interested enough to watch the documentary, as if everyone shares in the guilt for the killer’s actions.
But what she’d like everyone to forget is that her actions egged him on while he was on the loose and actively taking life. Playing into his scheme is a much different thing than passively watching a documentary more than half a decade after his conviction. There’s a good argument to be made that the vigilantes should be embarrassed by their role in this story, rather than reveling in the attention they’re getting as a result.
Remember Jun Lin. Remember the poor cats. Forget about the killer and the people who helped him achieve the fame he so desperately craved.
Note:I realize refusing to name the killer on this blog is like putting a single grain of sand back in a bottle after the whole thing has been spilled, but hey, we have to start somewhere.
A shadowy group of Russians are behind a complex and nefarious plot to discredit Buddy, sources allege.
The Russian operatives were behind the recent Time magazine snub in which Buddy was ludicrously excluded from a top 10 cat list, several cats with knowledge of the operation meowed on condition of anonymity.
Deep-cover Russian agents have also worked to sully Buddy’s reputation as a heroic American feline by seeding social media with anti-Buddesian sentiment and viral content.
One Youtube video purports to show Buddy running terrified from a vacuum, but a spokesman for Buddy said the Russians used a similar-looking silver tabby to film the fabricated incident.
“The Buddy double was convincing, but anyone can see for themselves the cat in the video isn’t muscular enough to pass for His Grace,” spokesman Purrcy Pressman told reporters. “Vladimew Pootin and the Russians are underestimating the intelligence of the everycat if they think kitties will believe Buddy would run from a vacuum.”
Allegations of Russian involvement weren’t a surprise to feline officials, who blame the KGB (Kitty Gaslighting Bureau) for most of the salacious rumors circulating in the feline world over the past five years.
Those same KGB agents were responsible for tabloid stories that alleged Streetcat Bob’s name was found in a little black book when the FBI — Feline Bureau of Investigators — raided a purrstitution ring in November, sources say.
“These Russians are dangerous,” National Security Adviser Saul Berenson said. “Just look at what they did to Carrie Meowthison, one of our best agents. Buddy would do well to keep a low profile for the time being.”
Yvgeny Groomov, a spokesman for the Russian embassy, denied the allegations, but nonetheless said the KGB was in possession of kompromat that could destroy the reputations of famous American felines.
“Buddy is like small child, he is insignificant to Motherland,” Groomov said. “Real story is about how Americans are always using Russia as scapecat for all things going wrong. We say to the Americans, thank you for allowing us live in your heads free of rent.”
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. Buddy the Cat, defendant
THE GRAND JURY CHARGES THAT:
19 USC § 741D (Unauthorized Distribution of Schedule I Catnip)
The defendant and other relevant persons
1. Between or on about April 22, 2014 and January 1, 2020, defendant BUDDY THE CAT (“Buddy”) operated a vast interstate operation dedicated to the cultivation, packaging, distribution and sale of Nepeta Cataria, commonly known as CATNIP, and by the street names “The Nip,” “Feline Piff,” and “Meowijuana,” as well as Actinidia polygama, commonly known as SILVER VINE.
2. While overseeing his criminal organization, defendant Buddy the Cat headquartered his operation out of a New York apartment, entrusting his lieutenants Nipsy Rock, Socks the Evil Killah, Chairman Meow and Pawblo Escobar with the sale and wholesale distribution of catnip and silver vine, both Schedule I nipcotics according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
3. During his tenure as the east coast’s primary “Niplord,” Buddy the Cat did engage in a ruthless campaign of violence and intimidation in order to claim territory (“corners,” “stoops” and “blocks”) for himself and his criminal organization.
23 USD § 892b (Criminal Endangerment of a Kitten)
4. Buddy the Cat, aided by his capitans, lieutenants and soldiers, did participate in the recruitment of kittens younger than six months of age for the purpose of serving as runners for “The Nip” and as lookouts to provide advance warning of the presence of law enforcement. The young kittens were recruited with promises of a glamorous lifestyle, compensation in the form of Temptations treats, and “street credibility.”
USD 113a § 046 (Feliny catslaughter in the first degree)
5. Buddy the Cat and his aforementioned lieutenants participated in the ruthless and diabolical elimination of rivals and potential “snitches,” among them Fat Tony Catsonova, consigliere of the Il Nipolino catnip cartel, Felix “Heisenpaw” White, chief chemist for the Los Angeles-based Los Gatos criminal gang, and “Meowvelous” Mikey Mike, a show cat who moonlighted as a dealer specializing in high-grade silver vine.
USD 562a § 215 (Conspiracy to transport catnip across state lines)
6. On or about Oct 12, 2016, defendant Buddy the Cat and Nipsy Rock were observed by a federal agent discussing the shipment of 4,000 lbs of premium Meowijuana, with a street value of approximately $200,000 USD, from a grow warehouse in California to the operation’s Nip Distribution Center in Newark, NJ. In addition, defendants Chairman Meow and Pico de Gato were overheard planning the ambush and robbery of a silver vine shipment intended for a Los Gatos stash house in Houston, Texas.
The Substantive Violation
Defendant Buddy the Cat did willfully participate in the manufacture, distribution and sale of Schedule I nipcotics, the termination of rival Niplords, a protracted series of turf wars and a permanent campaign of disruption and terror aimed at his rivals in the illegal catnip trade.
Have you seen Buddy the Cat? Federal authorities have announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the successful capture and conviction of the notorious niplord.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a government with no respect for any kind of life — human or animal — would threaten the mass extermination of cats and dogs.
It’s par for the course in China, where authorities in dozens of cities and provinces are urging people to “deal with” their pets in the wake of the Coronavirus threat — or the government will, media reports say.
The warnings have been issued in Wuhan, the epicenter of the Coronavirus, as well as Shanxi, Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Hebei and Shanghai, according to the Humane Society International.
Yet there’s no evidence the virus has been transmitted by domesticated pets like cats and dogs, and no evidence those animals can catch it from humans, experts say.
In Wuhan, residents have been told to keep their pets indoors, and warned that any cats or dogs spotted outdoors will be “killed and buried on the spot,” the UK’s Metro reported.
But experts say it’s the government’s fault that the virus jumped from wild animals to humans in the first place. China has refused to shut down so-called “wet markets,” where live animals are sold next to the carcasses of recently-slaughtered animals, despite the fact that SARS and other viruses originated from those markets.
Officials believe the Coronavirus originated at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, one of many “wet markets” described as “filthy, crowded places where animals are displayed alive in small cages” and “are often slaughtered on site.”
China has been “mired in long-held beliefs about the benefits of eating exotic and often endangered animals for good health,” the Humane Society said in a statement, referring to traditional Chinese “medicine” and other folk practices that use animal parts in ineffective and dangerous tonics and elixirs.
In addition to creating the circumstances for viruses to jump from wild animals to humans, the illegal wildlife trade has pushed animals like tigers and pangolins to the brink of extinction.
“Chinese society is boiling with anger at wildlife policy failures,” said the Humane Society International’s China policy specialist, Peter Li. “Social media is full of posts condemning the refusal to shut down the wildlife markets. This is the worst Chinese New Year in China’s recent history.”
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.