A former “Swamp Brothers” star and his business partner in the Glades Herp Farm in Sumter County have been found guilty of conspiracy to traffic in state and federally protected reptiles.
Robroy MacInnes, 54, of Inverness, also 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, along with his brother Stephen, had a cable television show called the “Swamp Brothers” on the Discovery channel, before it was cancelled. The company’s website www.gherp.com said the business at 4258 S.W. 52nd Terrace has been closed, although the brothers have floated the idea of opening an interactive zoo in Clermont and are trying to get back on TV.
Between 2007 and 2008, MacInnes and Robbie Keszey collected protected snakes from the wild in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, purchased protected eastern timber rattlesnakes that had been illegally collected from the wild in violation of New York law, and transported federally threatened eastern indigo snakes from Florida to Pennsylvania, according to the United States Department of Justice.
MacInnes also violated the Lacey Act by purchasing illegal eastern timber rattlesnakes and having the snakes transported from Pennsylvania to Florida, a press release stated. The evidence at trial showed that the protected species were destined for sale at reptile shows in Europe, where a single timber rattlesnake can sell for up to $800.
Snakes that were not sold in Europe were sold through the defendants’ business in Bushnell.
“These defendants broke numerous wildlife laws seeking to profit from an illegal trade in threatened species,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The eastern timber rattlesnake is a species of venomous pit viper native to the eastern United States, and is listed as threatened in New York. It is also 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 Lacey Act, one of the oldest statutes in the United States, prohibits interstate trafficking in wildlife known to be illegally obtained.
Keszey and MacInnes could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.