Arizona Man Pleads Guilty To Selling Gila Monsters in South Carolina
December 18, 2017
An Arizona man pleaded guilty last week to three counts of violating federal law that restricts the sale of wildlife across state lines, for selling Gila monsters (Heloderma suspectum) and other venomous reptiles in South Carolina.
In 2013 and 2014, Jonathan Sampson Benson sold two Gila monsters, two prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis), two tiger rattlesnakes (Crotalus tigris), and one spectacled rattlesnake to a buyer in South Carolina. The reptiles were intercepted before they reached South Carolina. One Hopi rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis nuntius) and an Arizona black rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus cerberus) were seized by government officials working the case.
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“We were glad to be able to provide assistance to federal authorities and to our colleagues in Arizona to help bring this case to a successful conclusion,” said Col. Chisolm Frampton, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources' deputy director for law enforcement. “I'm very proud of the work our officers did on this case.”
Benson must serve five years probation and pay nearly $5,000 in fines—$2,225 restitution to the Lacey Act Reward Account and $2,500 to the Arizona Game and Fish Wildlife Theft Prevention Fund, according to WLTX 19.
Gila monsters and their cousin, the beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum) are the only known lizards with a venomous delivery system. They are both native to North America and are both fairly large lizards.