SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah brother and sister have been federally indicted on charges of conspiring to smuggle a rare snake from Brazil to the United States for profit.
Jeremy Stone's fascination for snakes was no secret. He's a well-known snake breeder in the state. But in a statement to FOX 13 News, he denies the allegations that he tried bringing in a rare breed from Brazil in the name of money.
However, YouTube videos show his passion for a particular white snake named Princess Diamond. The rare white boa constrictor is the star of several YouTube videos posted by Jeremy Stone. The 39-year-old, along with his sister Keri Ann, are accused of trying to smuggle the snake from Brazil to the United States.
"They're more rare than albinos, so there's a market for them, so it would be a high end snake," said James Dix, the founder of Utah's Reptile Rescue.
He said a baby white boa is worth at least $10,000.
"If it was just a regular boa it would range anywhere from 150 bucks on up, but $10,000 is quite a bit for a baby," Dix said.
Stone, according to the indictment, was plotting to breed this white snake with other boas and sell its offspring for a lot of cash. The feds say from 2007 to 2009, Stone sent thousands to a zoo keeper in Brazil to pay for the rare species. Stone and his sister reportedly went to great lengths to get the snakes to the U.S.
Keri Ann was busted by airport officials for allegedly wearing a fake pregnancy belly. When their ruse didn't work, federal officials believe the snakes were then transported to Guyana, where a fake certificate was produced; the bogus documentation cleared the boas for entrance in Miami.
Stone was a familiar face to snake breeders in Utah, across the country and even abroad. The Lindon man makes a living off snakes through his website. The feds claim he sold the white snake's offspring for tens of thousands to buyers in the U.S., Canada and even Italy.
Dix is surprised to hear about the allegations.
"Jeremy is known throughout the whole state and other countries, he's a very respected snake man,” he said. “I've never heard anyone say a bad thing about him living in Utah for 35 years."
In a statement, Jeremy Stone said in part "it goes without saying that I deny the allegations and I will dispute the same in a court of law."
Stone and his sister have yet to be arraigned in court. The maximum penalty for the four charges, if found guilty, add up to 30 years in a federal prison.