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Cape Coral man and eight others facing charges in a state investigation of a venomous snake trafficking ring

Posted at 8:25 PM, Jan 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-17 07:21:06-05

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) has filed charges against eight individuals, one being from Cape Coral after a multi-year investigation project called "Operation Viper". The charges range from second-degree misdemeanors to third-degree felonies that are related to the illegal trafficking of venomous and prohibited snakes.

Paul Edward Miller from Cape Coral has been issued to appear in court for multiple violations in Lee County. He is a large importer of snakes and an established wildlife wholesaler.

“Some of the individuals apprehended by this operation are established dealers of snakes,” said FWC Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto. “Our law enforcement officers will continue to hold accountable those who disregard the rules which protect our natural resources of the state.”

The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates between $7.8 billion and $10 billion per year in illicit wildlife trafficking. This kind of wildlife trafficking ranks fourth behind weapons, human trafficking, and drugs.

200 snakes that consisted of 24 different species from seven regions of the world were purchased or sold by an undercover FWC investigator to or from the wildlife traffickers. In 2020, the FWC initiated this investigation with many undercover investigators.

"The illegal sale, purchase, transport, and caging of these regulated animals pose a significant public safety threat, undermines legitimate captive wildlife dealers operating legally, and threatens the long-term well-being of state wildlife populations. If these illegal and dangerous nonnative species were to escape, they could easily live and breed in Florida’s subtropical climate."