By Ron Gower
A former "Swamp Brothers" television star and his business partner in the Glades Herp Farm in Sumter County, Florida, have been found guilty of conspiracy to traffic in state and federally protected reptiles.
Robroy MacInnes, 55, of Inverness, was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania of trafficking in protected timber rattlesnakes in violation of the Lacey Act.
Robbie Keszey, 47, of Bushnell, Florida, along with his brother Stephen, had the show "Swamp Brothers" on the Discovery Channel, before it was canceled. Stephen was not indicted.
The two defendants co-owned a reptile dealership, Glades Herp Farm Inc., based in Florida.
The company's website www.gherp.com said the business has been closed.
They were sentenced on charges of conspiracy and trafficking in protected timber rattlesnakes and endangered eastern indigo snakes.
The Jim Thorpe area was among the regions where they had caught timber rattlesnakes.
A federal judge in Philadelphia on Friday sentenced MacInnes and Keszey of Bushnell, Florida, to 18 months and 12 months in prison, respectively, for their role in trafficking state and federally protected reptiles.
MacInnes was sentenced to pay a $4,000 fine and Keszey will pay a $2,000 fine.
Between 2006 and 2008, court records say the two collected protected rattlesnakes that had been illegally collected from the wild in New York, and then transported eastern indigo snakes, which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, from Florida to Pennsylvania.
The eastern timber rattlesnake is a species of venomous pit viper native to the eastern United States. It is illegal to possess an eastern timber rattlesnake without a permit in Pennsylvania.
The eastern indigo snake, the longest native North American snake species, is listed as threatened by both Florida and federal law.
The evidence at their trial showed that the protected rattlesnakes were destined for sale at reptile shows in Europe, where a single timber rattlesnake can sell for up to $800.
The eastern indigos were intended for domestic sale where a single snake is worth up to $1,000.
In addition to trafficking in illegal animals, the defendants attempted to persuade a witness not to provide the government with information regarding their illegal dealings.
Both MacInnes and Keszey were convicted on Nov. 15, 2013, after a jury trial in Philadelphia.
Their indictment in 2007 said Keszey traveled from Florida to Sellersville, Bucks County, where he met an agent of Glades Herp Farm.
Keszey and the representative from the farm traveled to the Jim Thorpe area and collected two eastern timber rattlesnakes from the wild.
It adds that they also traveled to the Pine Barrens area of New Jersey, where they collected reptiles from the wild, including a king snake, which was in violation of New Jersey law.
The rattlers were transported from Jim Thorpe to the Glades Herp Farm, the indictment says.
A return trip to Jim Thorpe by MacInnes, Keszey and an agent of Glades Herp Farm occurred in April 2007, but they were unsuccessful in their attempts to collect more of the eastern timber rattlesnakes.
On Sept. 21, 2008, an agent of Glades Herp Farm traveled to Easton and was sold two adults and 13 juvenile rattlesnakes for approximately $900. The snakes were sent from Philadelphia to Glades Herp Farm.