Brother And Sister Charged With Conspiring To Unlawfully Import Rare White Boa Constrictor Into The United States From Brazil
SALT LAKE CITY - A federal grand jury returned an indictment Wednesday afternoon charging two Utah residents with conspiring to unlawfully import a rare white leucistic boa constrictor from Brazil into the United States for the purpose of breeding it with other boa constrictors and selling its offspring for a profit.
Jeremy Stone, age 39, of Lindon, and his sister, Keri Ann Stone, age 34, of Midvale, are charged in the 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 into the United States contrary to law; and making and submitting false records for wildlife imported into the United States.
According to the indictment, Jeremy Stone is the owner of Jeremy Stone Reptiles, which is a business located in Lindon. In the course of its operations, Stone Reptiles bred and sold boa constrictors to customers in the United States and foreign countries.
The international trade of boa constrictors is regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) through the Endangered Species Act. Regulations require that those exporting wildlife through CITES to, among other things, obtain a certificate of origin from the governmental authority in the exporting country showing that the specimen to be exported originated in the country that issued the certificate of origin. Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) requires that those exporting or importing wildlife disclose the country of origin for the imported specimen, the total monetary value of the specimen, and the source of the specimen – whether it was “wild caught” or “bred in captivity,” the indictment says.
The indictment alleges that around December 2006, Jeremy Stone became aware of the existence of a rare white boa under the care of the Niteroi Zoo near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. From 2007 until 2009, Stone sent thousands of dollars to the administrator of the zoo as payment for the white boa. The indictment alleges he knew that the boa was caught in the wild in Brazil and given to the zoo. He also knew that Brazil did not allow the export of wild-caught boa constrictors.
The indictment alleges the Stones and others committed several overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to import the snake to the United States. For example, from 2007 to 2009, Jeremy Stone sent or had others send emails to the zoo administrator discussing how he could obtain the white boa and leave Brazil without obtaining the proper export permits from Brazil. These emails included photos demonstrating how the administrator should pack the white boa in her luggage. In January 2009, Jeremy Stone paid for travel for himself and Keri Ann Stone to travel to Brazil and meet with the zoo administrator to obtain the white boa.
According to the indictment, a few days later the Stones attempted to leave Brazil on a cruise ship back to the United States, but they were denied permission to board the cruise ship 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 upon finding that Keri Ann Stone was wearing a hollow, false pregnancy belly and brassiere. The indictment alleges they were testing airport security in Brazil.
The indictment alleges the Stones ultimately transported the white boa from Brazil into Guyana where a veterinarian was used to generate a certificate of origin falsely claiming that the white boa had been caught in the wild in Guyana. With a certificate of origin from Guyana, Jeremy Stone was able to facilitate the export of the white boa with other snakes from Guyana to the United States. The indictment alleges Jeremy Stone caused a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service form to state that the value of the shipment of snakes was $220 and that the shipped snakes, including the white boa, had been caught in the wild in Guyana. The snakes were cleared for entry into the United States based on the false information on the form on about Jan. 29, 2009. Travel was then facilitated from Miami to Stone Reptiles in Lindon.
The indictment alleges Jeremy Stone bred the white boa with other boa constrictors at the business and sold the offspring for tens of thousands of dollars to buyers in the United States, Canada, and Italy, among other places.
Summonses will be issued to Jeremy and Kari Ann Stone to appear for an arraignment in federal court. The maximum potential penalty for the conspiracy count is five years in prison. The potential penalty for importing merchandise contrary to law count is 20 years and submitting false information on a USFWS form carries a potential penalty of five years in federal prison.
Indictments are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in indictments are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.