Man gets prison for illegally shipping turtles and snakes

February 27, 2022 GMT

VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) — A Florida man who admitted that he illegally shipped turtles and venomous snakes from his home in south Georgia has been sentenced to serve nearly three years in prison.

Ashtyn Michael Rance, 35, of Miami pleaded guilty in November to one count of wildlife trafficking and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was sentenced last week to serve two years and nine months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release, prosecutors said in a news release. He was also ordered to pay a $4,300 fine.

Rance accepted $3,300 to ship three eastern box turtles and 16 spotted turtles from his home in Valdosta to a customer in Florida, knowing that they would ultimately be shipped to China, prosecutors said. He shipped the 19 turtles in February 2018 in a box labeled as containing tropical fish and common lizards.

Several months later, in May 2018, he agreed to send a package of 15 Gaboon vipers from Valdosta to Florida. The label on the box said it contained harmless reptiles and ball pythons, when it really contained venomous snakes worth about $900, prosecutors said. China was the ultimate destination for the snakes.

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Rance had imported 100 Gaboon vipers and other venomous snakes from Africa to Atlanta and had a special permit to transport them out of Georgia. But he later returned to Valdosta with 16 of them, prosecutors said.

Also in May, law enforcement agents found a Bushmaster Carbine .223 caliber rifle and a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun at his home in Valdosta. Rance has a previous felony conviction and isn’t allowed to have a gun, prosecutors said.

The federal Lacey Act prohibits transporting wildlife between states if the wildlife is illegal under state laws, and also prohibits falsely labeling a package containing wildlife. Rance admitted that his holding and possessing the reptiles violated Georgia laws, prosecutors said.