(CN) – Seven boa constrictors seized in connection with an illegal wildlife smuggling scheme have been returned to the government of Brazil, the Justice Department announced.
The seven boa constrictors are the offspring of a rare and extremely valuable white boa constrictor known as “Lucy” or “Diamond Princess” that was found in the Niterói district of Rio de Janerio in 2006.
Because of its rarity, Brazilian authorities housed the white boa at the Niterói Zoo, a private foundation that rescued and rehabilitated injured wild animals.
According to federal prosecutors, Jeremy Stone, a Utah-based collector, breeder and seller of reptiles, traveled to Brazil in January 2009, and after paying thousands of dollars to a zoo administrator, secured possession of the snake and unlawfully returned with it back to the United States.
The federal indictment lays out a story of international intrigue as it describes Stone’s efforts to return to the states with the snake. Stone’s accomplice was his sister Keri Ann Stone, who planned to carry the snake in a hollow, false pregnancy belly and brassiere.
The plan temporarily unraveled when a cruise line declined to let Keri Ann Stone board citing what appeared to be her advanced state of pregnancy. The pair then attempted to leave brazil by air, but were detained when they made a trial run to see if they could get past security with the fake pregnancy gear.
Eventually, they crossed from Brazil into Guyana, and using a falsified certificate of origin, were able to export the white boa with other snakes to the United States.
The authorities said once safely back on American soil, Stone bred the white boa with other boa constrictors in his collection and “sold the offspring for tens of thousands of dollars to buyers in the United States, Canada, and Italy, among other places.”
Prosecutors said that after learning Lindon, Utah resident was selling snakes bred from a rare white boa, the Brazilian government requested assistance from the United States in securing the return of the boa and any of her offspring.
Federal investigators then obtained a warrant authorizing the seizure of the snake and any offspring from Stone’s property in Utah. In executing the warrant, agents from the FBI learned that the boa constrictor Stone had taken from Brazil had died.
The investigators the seized eight surviving offspring and turned them over to the turned U.S. Marshals Service, which delivered the boa babies to the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. Prosecutors said one of the snakes died a short time later.
In July 2014, Stone pleaded guilty plea to unlawfully transporting wildlife into the United States. As part of his plea agreement, Stone agreed to forfeit the boa’s offspring to the United States.
In October 2014, the government of Brazil filed a petition asserting its ownership of the white boa and its offspring because it had been caught in the Brazilian wild. Thereafter, the United States asked the court to amend the preliminary order of forfeiture to recognize Brazil’s claim to the snakes.
The court entered a final order of forfeiture in February 2015, awarding the white boa’s seven surviving offspring to the government of Brazil.
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