A pair of alleged rattlesnake rustlers are facing federal charges for illegally capturing venomous snakes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to sell through their thriving mail order reptile business.
Robroy MacInnes, 54, and Robbie Keszey, 47, are co-owners of the Glades Herp Farm in Florida. In 1998, The Washington Post celebrated MacInnes as "the man to see if you want to buy a crocodile. Or a scorpion, a rattlesnake, a boa constrictor."
According to prosecutors, however, MacInnes and Keszey were illegally obtaining many of their rattlesnakes from Pennsylvania.
According to a federal indictment, MacInnes and Keszey made several trips to Sellersville, Jim Thorpe and Easton in 2007 and 2008 to illegally trap, and sometimes buy, federally protected Eastern Timber rattlers.
The poisonous reptiles were flown to Tampa, via commercial airlines, from Philadelphia International Airport. Back at the Glades Herp Farm in Bushnell, Florida, the snakes commanded prices up to $350, prosecutors said.
On its website today, the Glades lists several Timber rattlers, known to herpetologists as Crotalus horridus horridus, for $150 and $250.
During one buying trip, the pair bought 15 juveniles and two adult rattlers in Easton and flew them back, according to the indictment.
Other trips to the Northeast took them to the Pine Barrens for wild King snakes and New York for additional rattlers.
In Pennsylvania, it's illegal to possess an Eastern Timber rattlesnake without a permit. In New Jersey, the rattlesnake is considered endangered.
The traffic in reptiles allegedly went both ways. MacInnes and Keszey also shipped non-venomnous Eastern Indigo snakes to Sellersville, prosecutors said, in violation of the Lacey Act, which prohibits the interstate trafficking of unlawfully obtained wildlife.
Penalties for violating the Lacey Act can be harsh, up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.