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Two Utah snake breeders are accused of illegally importing a rare Brazilian boa constrictor.
A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted Jeremy Stone, 39, of Lindon, and his sister, Keri Ann Stone, 34, of Midvale, with four counts related to importing the snake and falsely documenting the import, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
The Stones are accused of buying a white leucistic boa constrictor from a zoo in Rio de Janeiro, paying thousands of dollars between 2007 and 2009. According to the indictment, Jeremy Stone knew the boa was caught in the wild and forbidden from export by Brazilian law.
In a statement posted Thursday morning on Stone's website, boaconstrictor.com, Stone said he appreciates everyone's support "in these difficult times" and that his Lindon business, Jeremy Stone Reptiles, will continue to operate as usual.
"It goes without saying that I deny the allegations and I will dispute the same in a court of law," Jeremy Stone wrote. "I have been instructed by counsel not to discuss the facts of the case on either the web or in the media. I can say that I look forward to disproving the government's allegations in trial and ask that my supporters and the reptile community in general exercise patience in forming a premature judgment until such time as my case can be presented in court."
The Stones traveled to Brazil in 2009 to get the boa, the indictment states. Keri Ann Stone allegedly tried to test airport security for their return trip by wearing a hollow false pregnancy belly and bra. She was detained by security, so the Stones took the snake to Guyana, according to the indictment. A vet there provided a false certificate of origin, claiming the snake was caught in Guyana, which allowed the Stones to ship the snake with clearance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the indictment alleges.
Jeremy Stone then bred the snake with other boa constrictors at his business and sold the offspring for tens of thousands of dollars both in the United States and abroad, according to the indictment.
The Stones are facing charges in U.S. District Court for Utah of conspiracy to knowingly import merchandise contrary to law, knowingly importing merchandise contrary to law, transporting merchandise knowing it was imported contrary to law and knowingly making and submitting false label for wildlife imported into the United States.
Jeremy Stone's attorney, Larry M. Bakman, said he finds the case "troublesome on a number of levels." He said the director of the zoo has claimed the snake died.
But said he's waiting for prosecutors to produce their evidence so he can review it and interviewing witnesses in Brazil and the United States before commenting.
"This is a circumstantial evidence case with no smoking gun," Bakman said.