Nick Sculac, 60, was warned that he could spend the rest of his life in prison if he gets in trouble again, The (Colorado Springs) Gazette reported. He pleaded guilty to theft, admitting he cheated a volunteer at Serenity Springs Wildlife Center of more than $40,000.
"If you find yourself back in front of us again, you'll be looking at spending potentially the rest of your life in prison," Judge David Gilbert said, noting Sculac has two earlier felony convictions.
Sculac and his wife, Julie Walker, care for 138 big cats at Serenity Springs, depending on donations and volunteer help. Gilbert suggested Sculac is both a "con artist" and someone who is doing good work.
The victim of the theft, Michael McCain, was bitten on the arm by a tiger at the sanctuary after he went into what was supposed to be an off-limits area. He said he took the blame for his injuries because he did not want the sanctuary to get into trouble and paid Sculac $40,500 to cover the cost of fines imposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In fact, the incident is still under investigation and no fines have yet been ordered.