United States Repatriates Seven Boa Constrictors to Brazil
WASHINGTON—Seven boa constrictors seized in connection with an illegal wildlife smuggling scheme have been returned to the government of Brazil, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney John W. Huber of the District of Utah.
“This case exhibited many of the hallmarks that make illegal wildlife trafficking a growing international scourge, including actors motivated by greed who illegally smuggled rare and precious wildlife across international boundaries,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “The return of the precious snakes to Brazil brings to an end this years-long international saga, and serves as an example of our commitment to working with law enforcement partners in Brazil and elsewhere to combat transnational crime.”
“The successful prosecution of Mr. Stone and the recovery and repatriation of the offspring from this rare and valuable leucistic boa constrictor are due to the exceptional cooperation between the United States and Brazilian authorities,” said U.S. Attorney Huber. “The illegal wildlife trade threatens the survival of many threatened and endangered species and Mr. Stone’s conviction in this case demonstrates our resolve to prosecute those who engage in such activities.”
The seven boa constrictors are the offspring of a rare and extremely valuable white (leucistic) 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. In January 2009, Jeremy Stone, a Utah-based collector, breeder and seller of reptiles, traveled to Brazil, secured possession of the snake and unlawfully returned with it back to the United States.
After learning that Stone was marketing snakes bred from a rare white boa, the Brazilian government requested assistance from the United States in securing the return of the leucistic boa and any offspring. Thereafter, pursuant to a mutual legal assistance treaty, federal investigators 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 leucistic boa constrictor had died. Agents turned the offspring over to the U.S. Marshals Service, which delivered the eight surviving offspring to the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. One of the snakes died shortly thereafter.
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. In February 2015, the court entered a final order of forfeiture awarding the white boa’s seven surviving offspring to the government of Brazil.
The Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and Office of International Affairs, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Utah and the FBI, worked jointly with the government of Brazil to secure the repatriation of the seven offspring.