SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah brother and sister face criminal charges for allegedly smuggling a rare boa constrictor into the United States to breed and sell the offspring for tens of thousands of dollars.
Jeremy Stone, 39, became aware of a white boa at the Niteroi Zoo near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that had been caught in the wild, according to a federal indictment.
Stone, owner of Jeremy Stone Reptiles in Lindon, sent thousands of dollars to the zoo administrator between 2007 and 2009 as payment for the snake, prosecutors allege.
He sent or had others send emails to the administrator discussing how he could get the boa out of Brazil without export permits. The emails included photos demonstrating how the administrator should pack the snake in his sister's luggage, according to the indictment.
In January 2009, Stone and Keri Ann Stone, 34, of Midvale, traveled to Brazil to meet with the zoo administrator.
According to the indictment, a few days later the Stones attempted to leave Brazil on a cruise ship back to the United States but were denied permission to board because Kari Ann Stone appeared to be in the late months of pregnancy.
They also attempted to board a flight to the United States. Airport security temporarily detained them after finding that she was wearing a hollow, false pregnancy belly and bra. The indictment alleges they were testing airport security.
The Stones ultimately moved the white boa from Brazil to Guyana, where a veterinarian created a fake certificate of origin showing the snake was caught in Guyana, according to the indictment.
Jeremy Stone sent the white boa and other snakes to the United States, declaring on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service form that they were caught in Guyana and valued at $220, the indictment says.
The snakes were cleared for entry in Miami based on false information on the form on Jan. 29, 2009, and transported to Stone Reptiles in Lindon, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges Jeremy Stone bred the white boa with other boa constrictors and sold the offspring for tens of thousands of dollars to buyers in the United States, Canada and Italy, among other places.
Jeremy Stone had no comment but said his side would be told in court.
Jeremy Stone and Keri Ann Stone are charged in a four-count indictment with conspiracy to unlawfully import the snake into the United States; unlawfully importing the snake into the country; transporting the snake knowing it was imported contrary to law; and making and submitting false records for wildlife imported into the United States.
The maximum penalty for the conspiracy count is five years in prison. The potential penalty for importing merchandise contrary to law is 20 years, and submitting false information on a Fish and Wildlife form carries a penalty of five years in prison.
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