Guyanese vet fingered in smuggling rare snake to US

-Utah siblings face charges over unlawful importation

A Guyanese veterinarian has been accused of aiding two Utah siblings in allegedly smuggling a rare boa constrictor from Brazil to the United States, where the brother and sister duo has been charged with several criminal offences.

Jeremy Stone, 39, and Keri Ann Stone are charged in a four-count indictment with conspiracy to unlawfully import the snake into the United States; unlawfully importing the snake into the country; transporting the snake knowing it was imported contrary to law; and making and submitting false records for wildlife imported into the United States, according to an indictment.

The snake was smuggled from Brazil to Guyana then to the US, the indictment says.

Jeremy Stone of Lindon, Utah, was photographed with an albino boa constrictor for a profile that ran in the New York Times in 2011. (Djamila Grossman/New York Times photo)
Jeremy Stone of Lindon, Utah, was photographed with an albino boa constrictor for a profile that ran in the New York Times in 2011. (Djamila Grossman/New York Times photo)

The maximum penalty for the conspiracy count is five years in prison, KSL News reported. The potential penalty for importing merchandise contrary to law is 20 years, and submitting false information on a Fish and Wildlife form carries a penalty of five years in prison, the news station said. The siblings alleged smuggled the rare boa constrictor into the United States to breed and sell the offspring for tens of thousands of dollars.

According to the indictment seen by Stabroek News, Jeremy Stone of Midvale, Utah was the owner and principal agent for Jeremy Stone Reptiles, which is located in Lindon, Utah. The indictment states that beginning at a time unknown to the Grand Jury, but at least from December 2009, Jeremy Stone, Keri Ann Stone, and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury agreed and conspired to unlawfully import a rare white leucistic boa constrictor into the United States for the purpose of breeding it with other boa constrictors and selling its offspring for a profit.

According to the indictment, at least from December 2006, Jeremy Stone became aware of the existence of a rare white boa which was under the care of the Niteroi Zoo near the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. From 2007 until 2009, the man sent thousands of dollars to the administrator of the zoo as payment for the white boa. The indictment stated that Jeremy Stone knew that the white boa was caught in the wild in Brazil, and was given to the Niteroi Zoo. He also knew that Brazil did not allow the export of wild-caught boa constrictors.

The indictment states that from 2007 to 2009, Jeremy Stone sent and had others known and unknown to the Grand Jury send the administrator several emails discussing how he could obtain the white boa and leave Brazil with it without obtaining the proper export permits from Brazil. “These emails include a message that Jeremy Stone sent to the administrator containing photos demonstrating how the administrator should pack the white boa in her luggage,” according to the indictment.

It stated that on or about January 2009, Jeremy Stone paid for passage and accommodations for himself and his sister to travel to Brazil and meet with the administrator to obtain the white boa. On or about January 14, 2009, the Stones traveled from Salt Lake City, Utah to Manaus, Brazil, while the same day the administrator traveled from Rio de Janeiro to Manaus where she met them and gave them the white boa.

The indictment said that on or about January 16, 2009, the Stones attempted to leave Brazil on a cruise ship back to the United States, but they were denied permission to board the cruise ship because Keri Ann Stone appeared to be in the late months of pregnancy.

A few days later, on January 18, the Stones attempted to board a flight to the United States. However, airport security temporarily detained them upon finding that Keri Ann Stone was wearing a hollow, false pregnancy belly and brassiere. Both the Stones were testing airport security in Brazil, the indictment said.

“Unable to leave Brazil by either cruise ship or airplane, Jeremy Stone, with the assistance of Keri Ann Stone and others who are known and unknown to the Grand Jury, transported or caused to be transported the white boa from Brazil into Guyana,” the indictment said while stating that on January 22, 2009, with the assistance of others, the Stones exited Brazil by crossing the border into Guyana.

“On or about January 28, 2009, Jeremy Stone and others who are known and unknown to the Grand Jury used a veterinarian in Guyana to generate a certificate of origin falsely claiming that the white boa had been caught in the wild in Guyana. With a certificate of origin from Guyana, Jeremy Stone and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury facilitated the export of the white boa with other snakes from Guyana to the United States,” the indictment states.

It said that to facilitate the shipment of snakes containing the white boa from Guyana into the United States, Jeremy Stone caused a USFWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service) Form 3-177 to state that the value of the shipment of snakes was $220.00 and that the shipped snakes, including the white boa, had been caught in the wild in Guyana.

It said that the snakes, including the white boa, were shipped from Guyana and entered the United States in Miami, Florida, after being cleared for entry by the USFWS on January 29, 2009. Jeremy Stone facilitated shipment of the snakes from Miami, Florida to Stone Reptiles in Lindon, Utah. He then bred the white boa with other boa constrictors at Stone Reptiles and sold the offspring for tens of thousands of dollars to buyers in the United States, Canada, and Italy, among other places, the indictment states.

Following investigations by the Grand Jury, the indictment was handed down.

KSL reported that Jeremy Stone did not want to talk to media but released a public statement. “I would first like to say that I appreciate your support in these difficult times. Stone Reptiles will continue to do business as usual and I will service my clientele with the same degree of attention and efficiency as I have done in the past,” he said, according to KSL.

“I have retained counsel, Larry M. Bakman, to contest the charges filed against me by the government. It goes without saying that I deny the allegations and I will dispute the same in a court of law. 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 statement said.

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