SCDNR: Man pleads guilty to trafficking protected reptiles in SC - FOX Carolina 21

SCDNR: Man pleads guilty to trafficking protected reptiles in SC

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(Photo by Jeff Servoss; courtesy USFWS) (Photo by Jeff Servoss; courtesy USFWS)

The SCDNR said Friday in a press release that it's assisting with an investigation into the trafficking of protected reptiles.

According to the release, Johnathan Sampson Benson pleaded guilty to to taking reptiles from Arizona and selling them in South Carolina, after being prosecuted by federal authorities.

Investigators with the SCDNR Law Enforcement Division assisted federal authorities with the case.

SCDNR officials said Benson sold 2 falsely labeled Gila monsters, 2 prairie rattlesnakes, 2 tiger rattlesnakes and one speckled rattlesnake in interstate commerce in November of 2013. He was also charged with making a similar transaction in July of 2014, in a case investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the SCDNR.

Benson pleaded guilty this week on three counts of federal Lacey Act violations, and was ordered by the court to serve five years of probation and pay $2,225 restitution to the Lacey Act Reward Account and $2,500 to the Arizona Game and Fish Wildlife Theft Prevention Fund.

Benson was also ordered to forfeit all wildlife to the government, including 2 Gila monsters, 2 prairie rattlesnakes, two tiger rattlesnakes, one speckled rattlesnake, one Hopi rattlesnake and one Arizona black rattlesnake.

SCDNR says the Lacey Act "prohibits people from importing, exporting, transporting, selling, receiving, acquiring or purchasing any fish or wildlife or plant taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law, treaty or regulation of the United States or in violation of any tribal law."

Gila monsters are protected by Arizona state law and by federal law.

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