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Ontario taxidermist falsely claimed over $1.2M in animal losses, police say

An Ontario taxidermist is facing criminal charges for allegedly making false insurance claims for over $1.2 million in dead exotic animals and naming fake zoos and safaris as part of his claims.

Durham Regional Police’s financial crimes unit began an investigation last September after they were contacted by an insurance company over potentially fraudulent claims made by Artistry in Motion Taxidermy, located in Uxbridge, police said in a news release on Wednesday. 

The business owner bought deceased exotic animals, including tigers and lions, after they died of natural causes to use as art pieces, the news release said. 

In May 2022, the owner made a claim to the insurance company that a “weather-related failure of his refrigeration system” resulted in a financial loss of over $500,000 worth of animals, police said. 

The owner made a second claim in June last year for another refrigeration system failure, claiming losses of over $700,000.

Police investigated zoos, ranches and safaris in Canada and Africa named by the accused, the release said. Investigators allege the accused fraudulently produced purchase invoices, inflated the value of the dead animals and created fake zoos and safaris as part of claims.

A 65-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday and has been charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000. He also faces two counts of uttering forged documents, police say.

Owner listed fake zoos and safaris: police

In September 2023, the man was fined $60,000 after pleading guilty to unlawful polar bear exports, Const. Nicholas Gluckstein said on Wednesday. 

The accused allegedly violated federal wildlife law by “intentionally providing false and misleading information” to obtain an export permit, according to a federal news release at the time of his guilty plea. 

Gluckstein said the previous federal violations “line right up” with the accused’s recent charges.

Taxidermy goat prancing
Image taken from the Artistry in Motion Taxidermy Facebook page. The business has been operating for over thirty years, according to an archived version of the business’s website. (Artistry in Motion Taxidermy/Facebook)

CBC News has reached out to Artistry in Motion Taxidermy through Instagram, Facebook and email. 

When CBC Toronto called the phone number associated with the business across their social media platforms, the person who picked up said it was a wrong number. 

Artistry in Motion Taxidermy has been operating for over 30 years, according to an archived version of the business’s website. 

Claiming to be “Canada’s largest taxidermy studio,” the business’s services include life size mounts, shoulder mounts and custom trophy room design. 

“There is nothing we cannot reproduce, whether it’s a gravity defying pose or the most detailed exotic species,” the website reads. 

Taxidermy mounted bison head.
Image taken from the Artistry in Motion Taxidermy Facebook page. The business owner was previously fined $60,000 for violating federal wildlife law on polar bear exports, Const. Nicholas Gluckstein said. (Artistry in Motion Taxidermy/Facebook)

Gluckstein said the financial crimes unit will be investigating whether the accused made more fraudulent claims with the same or other insurance companies. 

“We will definitely be laying additional charges if necessary,” he said. 

Typically, taxidermy art is purchased by large businesses, Gluckstein said. 

“You want to ensure that these [artworks] are done in the correct manner and that the people selling these things have the correct permits,” he said.

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