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Boa constrictor. Photo by FWC.

Snake smuggler busted in Orlando

On August 23, 2012, Mateus Dal Maso, Jr. pled guilty to attempting to export 27 snakes from the Orlando International Airport, Florida.

He was sentenced to one year of supervised release when within the geographical confines of the United States (must report to probation within 72 hours of arrival), two days incarceration with two days served, a $25 fee, and a fine of $6,000.

Dal Maso had purchased the 27 snakes – one Ball Python, seven Boa Constrictors, and 19 various color morph corn snakes – at the National Reptile Breeders Expo in Daytona Beach, Florida, held Aug 17-19, 2012.  He hid the snakes in stereo speakers which he checked as luggage.  The snakes never made it aboard the plane at the Orlando International Airport.  Dal Maso did not have the proper supporting documentation to import snakes into Brazil.  He admitted he was going to bring the snakes, which he valued at $10,000, back to Brazil to breed them for commercial purposes.

“Wildlife Smugglers face a virtual gauntlet of techniques agencies use to interdict their illicit shipments,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Resident Agent in Charge Andrew Aloise.  “This seizure was the result of multi-agency interdiction targeting efforts by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents, Customs and Border Protection Officers, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators.” 

The arrest came as a result of a multi-agency law enforcement detail dubbed Operation Snake Pit which involved the USFWS, CBP, FWC and the Transportation Security Administration.

“Operation Snake Pit focused on inspecting international and domestic shipments of reptiles coming into and being shipped from the National Reptile Breeders Expo.  One of our goals was to prevent illegal shipping of reptiles,” said FWC Major Paul Ouellette. “It would have been difficult to intercept this shipment without all of the agencies working together the way we did.”

Aloise went on to say the National Reptile Breeders Exposition in Daytona Beach attracts enthusiasts from across the world. 

“Most reptiles are purchased and shipped legally, but as our investigation shows, some go to great lengths to avoid the detection and legal requirements,” said Aloise.

The snakes are being held by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at an undisclosed care facility.


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