How do more than a dozen exotic animals go missing? Police say they didn’t

Josue Santiago
Josue Santiago

The We Care Wildlife Sanctuary didn't want investigators showing up and removing more of its exotic animals, so it took drastic action, police said.

Josue Santiago, who according to state records is the vice president of the non-profit sanctuary, drove seven lemurs, three red-handed tamarins, five marmosets, one cotton-top capuchin monkey and one white-faced one to North Carolina, according to police.

Armando Mendez Jr., who is listed as the registered agent of the south Miami-Dade sanctuary, then called police reporting that more than $53,000 worth of animals were stolen.

On Tuesday, Santiago was arrested and charged with providing a false report of a crime to police and giving false information to a law enforcement officer. He was being held at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center Tuesday night on a $2,000 bond, records show.

According to the state's Division of Corporations, the sanctuary opened in 2015, using the address 19700 SW 184th St.

The sanctuary's Facebook page is loaded with pictures and videos of animals including lemurs and birds.

“The specific purposes of we care wildlife is the care and well being of various exotic birds, farm animals, and other exotic species of wildlife,” the sanctuary posted on Facebook. “We work tirelessly to provide permanent care and homes for all the species of animals in our care.”

Over the weekend, WSVN reported the animals were stolen from the sanctuary after a post appeared on Craigslist saying the sanctuary was going out of business and that the animals were free.

But on Tuesday, police said Santiago “staged a burglary to the Sanctuary, and claimed the animals were stolen.”

The animals, police say, are now being cared for in North Carolina.