Florida Keys

It wasn’t the pot that got them busted. It was the 114 crabs and reptiles in their van.

FWC Officer Jefferson Carroll holds one of the 114 reptiles recovered in a Wednesday traffic stop.
FWC Officer Jefferson Carroll holds one of the 114 reptiles recovered in a Wednesday traffic stop.

It wasn’t the marijuana that got two men in trouble with the law during a traffic stop on Cudjoe Key Wednesday but something else packaged for sale — reptiles.

Fort Pierce resident Daniel Lawlor and Ashtyn Rance of Miami were handed several misdemeanor charges after a mix of 114 crabs and reptiles were found in the Dodge minivan the two were pulled over in at mile marker 23.5 bayside.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Rance, 30, was driving north on U.S. 1 when a Key West police officer pulled him over for reportedly “acting suspiciously in the area” of Sugarloaf School and running a stop sign around 10 a.m. A search of the van began when the officer smelled marijuana.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ken Fricke arrived scene and discovered the animals divided into separate bags and plastic containers.

FWC officers Jefferson Carroll and Matt Rubenstein were called to the scene and identified a red rat snake, 27 giant day geckos, 33 green iguanas and 37 land hermit crabs. They also found 14 Cuban knight anoles (a type of lizard), one giant Jamaica anole and a large-headed anole.

Lawlor, 35, reportedly said the animals were caught on Summerland Key and were being taken to a wholesale business called Emerald Coral Reptiles to be sold. Emerald Coral & Reptiles is listed as a reptile supply store in Miami.

Lawlor and Rance were charged with one misdemeanor each for not having a license to sell saltwater animals and transporting the animals without having required documents for where they were being taken; and two misdemeanor counts each for violating state law regulating the taking of the animals.

Rance was charged also with a misdemeanor count of personal possession of wildlife without a permit and was ticketed for driving without a license. Lawlor had an additional misdemeanor charge for possessing wild animals without a permit from the FWC to sell them.

They were booked into the county jail on Stock Island. Bond has not been set.

FWC spokesman Bobby Dube said the nonnative species were euthanized while the native animals were released back into the wild. Giant day geckos, green iguanas and three species of anoles are not native to Florida. Hermit crabs and red rat snakes are.

The Lower Keys population of red rat snakes is considered a species of special concern by the FWC and live or dead specimens cannot legally be collected without a permit. Dube said the arrests have prompted an investigation into the selling practices at Emerald Coral & Reptiles.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219