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Press Release

Jacksonville Resident Convicted Of Lying To Federal Agents As Part Of Black Mamba

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Georgia

BRUNSWICK, GA: – John Kenneth Rosenbaum, 24, from Jacksonville, Florida, was convicted yesterday by a federal jury after a 3-day trial before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood for lying to agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service when he orchestrated a hoax concerning a Black Mamba snake.

United States Attorney, Edward J. Tarver said, “Lying to federal agents is a crime. This defendant caused an unnecessary panic and wasted the resources of dozens of law enforcement personnel. For his crime, he will now face the cell of a federal prison.”

Luis Santiago, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Region, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, stated, “Many times our investigations go well beyond violations of wildlife laws, as in this case where concern for public safety was also a key element. Causing such public concerns by making false statements concerning such a dangerous species is absolutely inexcusable.”

The evidence presented during trial revealed that on November 21, 2011, Rosenbaum went to a hospital in South Georgia and reported that he had been bitten by a Black Mamba snake. Black Mamba snakes originate in Africa, are highly aggressive, and haves toxic venom that can kill within minutes. It is a violation of the federal Lacey Act to possess a Black Mamba in Georgia. Rosenbaum told an emergency room physician that he had driven across the Florida border to Exit 3 on Interstate 95 for the purpose of buying a Black Mamba snake. Rosenbaum said the snake escaped and bit him. Because Rosenbaum had puncture wounds and had written “Black Mamba Snake” on his arm, the physician immediately began snake-bite treatment, and then called law enforcement.

Over concerns that a Black Mamba snake was on the loose in a populated area, a coordinated search and investigation by United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Kingsland Police Department, Camden County Sheriff’s Department, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission was mobilized.

Rosenbaum continued to tell the story of the Black Mamba to federal agents and others for nearly five months. Over 1000 hours of law enforcement time were utilized in the search and investigation. Federal agents later determined that Rosenbaum’s story was a hoax, and that he had actually been bitten by his pet Egyptian Banded Cobra, which he kept in his home. Rosenbaum faces a maximum statutory penalty of 5 years in prison; a fine of $250,000; and, 3 years of supervised release. Rosenbaum remains in custody pending his sentence. A sentencing date will be scheduled following completion of a presentence investigation and report.

Assistant United States Attorneys T. Shane Mayes and Brian T. Rafferty prosecuted the case for the United States. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.

Updated April 13, 2015