SC-connected wildlife traders arrested after deadly snakes were sent to Florida

Officials said Thursday that a man with a history of engaging in reptile trade was arrested in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina and charged with illegal trade in turtles and venomous snakes and illegal possession of firearms.

Ashtin Michael Lance, identified as a resident of Dalzell, South Carolina, will face imprisonment if convicted of charges filed last month, officials said. The maximum charge for wildlife and guns is 15 years, with a fine of $ 250,000 per charge.

Georgia Grand Jury Indicted Lance On March 9, he claimed to have shipped 15 toxic Gaboon vipers to Florida in 2018.

The indictment, opened this week, also said it had sold 16 spotted turtles and 3 Eastern Box turtles to Florida buyers. Reims has been accused of shipping reptiles in a mislabeled package from Valdosta, Georgia, where he once lived. This is a common tactic in black market wildlife trading.

The complaint includes a federal firearm accusation after the Bushmaster carbine .223 rifle and 12-gauge shotgun were discovered by authorities at his Valdosta home three years ago.

Lance, a 34-year-old convicted criminal who is prohibited from possessing guns by federal law, was in trouble with authorities before being allegedly involved in illegal wildlife trade.

In 2018 Black Market Wildlife Trade Survey According to state newspapers, Reims planned to import 220 snakes from Africa into Atlanta for sale at the South Carolina Wildlife Show.

20 snakes were included in the snake to South Carolina Spit cobra, 15 bush vipers, 100 Gaboon viper Pair with Black Forest Cobra, According to the import license obtained by the state at that time. All of these snakes have enough deadly poison to kill or permanently hurt them.

Georgia officials tell Florida’s wildlife authorities and Reims, who had been out of control for years, to take a venomous snake to a rural address in Saluda County within 24 hours of the snake’s landing in Atlanta. The state reported that it requested. However, Georgia investigators said they had not eradicated all South Carolina snakes, Reims disputed.

A search of Reims’s property in Valdosta in the spring of 2018 found dozens of venomous snakes, Georgia officials said.

In a state survey of black market wildlife trade, Reims was identified by South Carolina authorities as a major wildlife trader in the southeast.At that time, Lance said he had I tried to obey the law. He also told the newspaper that he was giving up on the wildlife trade business.

“There is no way to do this business that does what I do legally,” he told the state. “There are always stupid gray lines that (you) intersect and they have the option of charging you.”

Attempts to reach Reims failed on Friday.

Reims was sentenced to abuse of a child in a Florida prison from July 2007 to February 2009. He was also repeatedly arrested in Florida on suspicion of wildlife.

His recent violations of the law have elicited sharp words from federal officials that illegal wildlife trade is a serious crime.

“The reckless shipment of venomous snakes by Reims and the illegal possession of firearms indicate the danger of buying and selling wildlife,” said Jean E. Williams, Deputy Attorney General of the Department of Justice for the Environment and Natural Resources. .. “I commend federal and state law enforcement partners to keep public and delivery courier companies safe.”

Federal officials said law enforcement in Georgia and South Carolina supported the investigation that led to the arrest of Reims.

“Together, we stopped smuggling highly toxic snakes and wildlife in our country,” said Stephen Clark, a special agent at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a news release. It was.

Spotted turtles grow wild in the eastern United States and the Great Lakes region. Eastern box turtles are found throughout the south and east, including South Carolina. Gaboon viper is an African snake, and its poison can cause shock, loss of consciousness, or human death, officials said in a news release Thursday.

Black market wildlife trading is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide. Reptile trade is of particular concern to authorities in the southeastern part of Asia, a region rich in turtles that are sought after as pets and food. American traders will also bring exotic reptiles from other countries for resale in the United States. Some transactions are legal, but many are not.

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