Florida Reptile Dealer Admits To Shipping Venomous Snakes From Georgia Home

Venomous snake

Photo: Getty Images

Federal authorities announced that an alleged Florida reptile dealer pleaded guilty after he was caught shipping turtles and venomous snakes from his South Georgia home.

Ashtyn Michael Rance, 35, pleaded guilty to one count Lacey Act Trafficking and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The Miami, Florida man could face prison time and up to a $250,000 fine for each charge, according to a Department of Justice press release. Rance allegedly sold the animals from his Valdosta, Georgia residence, a multi-agency investigation found. He's set for sentencing in Valdosta on February 23, 2022.

Court documents show that Rance agreed to ship three eastern box turtles and 16 spotted turtles to someone in Florida, “knowing that the ultimate destination was China.” He was paid $3,300 for the turtles, according to the release. On multiple occasions in 2018, Rance allegedly sent dozens of turtles and venomous snakes, including in mislabeled boxes because he knew what he was doing was illegal. Officials also noted that authorities found a Bushmaster Carbine .223 caliber rifle and a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun in Rance’s Valdosta home.

“Trafficking venomous or endangered wildlife through the mail clearly puts the delivery couriers and the public at risk and can harm the boxed animals. Our office will enforce Lacey Act law put in place to protect the public and our nation’s wildlife,” said Peter D. Leary, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “Law enforcement agencies working on Operation Middleman are successfully preventing the illegal smuggling of wildlife out of the United States and protecting our citizens.”

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