VALDOSTA GA (AP) — A Florida resident has admitted that he illegally transported turtles and venomous reptiles from his south Georgia home.
On Thursday, Ashtyn Rance from Miami pleaded guilty in federal court to one count for wildlife trafficking and one charge of possession of firearms by a felon. Federal prosecutors stated this in a news release.
Rance, aged 35, agreed to pay $3,300 for three eastern box turtles (and 16 spotted) to be shipped from Valdosta to Florida. The recipient knew they would end up being shipped to China. Rance illegally labeled the box as “Live Tropical Fish” and shipped the 19 turtles to Florida in February 2018.
In May 2018, several months later, he agreed to ship a 15-gauchoon viper package from Valdosta to Florida. The box’s label claimed it contained harmless reptiles or ball pythons. But it was actually full of venomous snakes. Prosecutors stated that it had the wrong label. China was the ultimate destination of the snakes.
The same month, police executed a search warrant at Rance’s Valdosta home. They discovered a Bushmaster Carbine.223-caliber rifle and a Mossberg 12-gauge gun. Prosecutors said that Rance was convicted of a felony and cannot possess a firearm.
The federal Lacey Act forbids wildlife from being transported between states if it is illegal to do so. It also prohibits falsifying the labeling of wildlife-containing packages. Prosecutors said that Rance had admitted to holding and possessing reptiles in violation of Georgia laws.
Peter D. Leary is the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. He stated that “trafficking venomous and endangered wildlife through the post clearly puts the delivery couriers at risk and the public at large and can harm animals in the boxes.”
Rance will be sentenced in Valdosta on February 23rd. Rance faces up to five year imprisonment on the wildlife trafficking and 10 years on gun charges, along with a $250,000 penalty for each.